The influence of long-term nifedipine treatment on body fluid compartments, renal function, the renin-angiotensin system, and the adrenergic system was studied in 18 patients with essential hypertension. A placebo period of 4 weeks was followed by a 6-week dose-titration period. Thereafter, the dose was kept constant for an additional 6 weeks (mean dose, 51 mg/day). As compared with placebo values, diastolic blood pressure decreased approximately 12% during nifedipine treatment. Plasma volume, extracellular fluid volume, and the ratio of plasma to interstitial fluid volume did not change significantly, either in the group as a whole, or in a subgroup in which pedal edema developed. Plasma concentrations of epinephrine and norepinephrine increased slightly after 2 weeks of treatment, but they returned to control values after 6 weeks of therapy. Plasma concentrations of renin, angiotensin II, and aldosterone did not change significantly. Glomerular filtration rate and renal clearances of sodium and potassium were unchanged as well. These results indicate that long-term nifedipine treatment does not lead to activation of counterregulatory mechanisms, such as fluid retention or the renin-angiotensin or adrenergic systems. This may well be of importance for the antihypertensive efficacy of nifedipine treatment.