Elevated levels of endogenous angiotensin can cause hypertensive nephrosclerosis as a result of the potent vasopressor action of the peptide. We have produced by gene targeting mice homozygous for a null mutation in the angiotensinogen gene (Atg-1-). Postnatally, Atg-1- animals show a modest delay in glomerular maturation. Although Atg-1- animals are hypotensive by 7 wk of age, they develop, by 3 wk of age, pronounced lesions in the renal cortex, similar to those of hypertensive nephrosclerosis. In addition, the papillae of homozygous mutant kidneys are reduced in size. These lesions are accompanied by local up-regulation of PDGF-B and TGF-beta1 mRNA in the cortex and down-regulation of PDGF-A mRNA in the papilla. The study demonstrates an important requirement for angiotensin in achieving and maintaining the normal morphology of the kidney. The mechanism through which angiotensin maintains the volume homeostasis in mammals includes promotion of the maturational growth of the papilla.