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During the past decade, experimental and clinical evidence has indicated an important role for the renin-angiotensin system in the progressive destruction of nephrons in a wide variety of chronic renal diseases. Studies have indicated that in the subtotally nephrectomized rat model of progressive glomerulosclerosis, in experimental diabetes mellitus, in the chronic phase of puromycin aminonucleoside-induced nephrotic syndrome and in Heymann's nephritis, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors dramatically preserve both nephron structure and function. Clinical studies have similarly noted that chronic administration of ACE inhibitors inhibits progression of renal failure in type I diabetes and type II diabetes as well as primary glomerulopathies, sickle cell nephropathy, systemic lupus erythematosis, chronic pyelonephritis and adult polycystic kidney disease. Current evidence suggests that the beneficial effect of ACE inhibitors is primarily due to inhibition of angiotensin II production, and there is strong suggestive evidence for increases in local intrarenal activation of the renin-angiotensin system in these conditions. In obstructive uropathy, activation of the renin-angiotensin system has also been shown to be an important aspect of the early functional changes and may be of importance in the subsequent generation of interstitial fibrosis. In the obstructed kidney, renin and angiotensinogen production increase and type I angiotensin receptors decrease. Inhibitors of angiotensin II production and angiotensin II action partially reverse the vasoconstriction and the reduced renal blood flow, and abolish the changes in expression of AT1 MRNA induced by obstruction. Studies suggest that the angiotensin-mediated increases in tubulointerstitial fibrosis may be mediated by increased production of transforming growth factor-beta.