Fifteen patients with mild-to-moderate hypertension (10 with normal and five with decreased renal function) were studied after treatment with placebo and low (1 mg), intermediate (2.5 mg), and high (5.0 mg per day) doses of indapamide, each for four weeks. Six patients--five with normal renal function--were classified as nonresponders (decrease in diastolic blood pressure less than 5 mm Hg). The remaining nine patients had dose-related decreases in blood pressure. Patients with or without renal failure showed similar decreases in blood pressure. Blood pressure reduction was associated with a significant decrease in cardiac index in the responders at the highest dose, related to a decrease in left ventricular end-diastolic dimension and stroke volume, whereas heart rate did not increase. This apparent decrease in venous return was associated with a significant decrease in body weight but not plasma volume in the responders. Indapamide did not change plasma norepinephrine levels, but decreased pressor responsiveness to exogenous norepinephrine. Responders had lower initial plasma renin activity and a smaller absolute increase in plasma renin activity while receiving indapamide, whereas angiotensin II pressor responsiveness was decreased more. The results presented indicate that the blood pressure lowering effect of indapamide in the present patient population is observed with or without renal failure and is associated with a decrease in pressor reactivity. In nonresponders, compensatory mechanisms (e.g., renin) may negate the antihypertensive effect of indapamide.