ACE inhibitors have achieved widespread usage in the treatment of cardiovascular and renal disease. ACE inhibitors alter the balance between the vasoconstrictive, salt-retentive, and hypertrophic properties of angiotensin II (Ang II) and the vasodilatory and natriuretic properties of bradykinin and alter the metabolism of a number of other vasoactive substances. ACE inhibitors differ in the chemical structure of their active moieties, in potency, in bioavailability, in plasma half-life, in route of elimination, in their distribution and affinity for tissue-bound ACE, and in whether they are administered as prodrugs. Thus, the side effects of ACE inhibitors can be divided into those that are class specific and those that relate to specific agents. ACE inhibitors decrease systemic vascular resistance without increasing heart rate and promote natriuresis. They have proved effective in the treatment of hypertension, they decrease mortality in congestive heart failure and left ventricular dysfunction after myocardial infarction, and they delay the progression of diabetic nephropathy. Ongoing studies will elucidate the effect of ACE inhibitors on cardiovascular mortality in essential hypertension, the role of ACE inhibitors in patients without ventricular dysfunction after myocardial infarction, and the role of ACE inhibitors compared with newly available angiotensin AT1 receptor antagonists.