Our study aimed to characterize the mechanisms underlying the attenuated cardiovascular responsiveness toward the renin-angiotensin system during sepsis. For this purpose, we determined the effects of experimental Gram-negative and Gram-positive sepsis in rats. We found that sepsis led to a ubiquitous upregulation of NO synthase isoform II expression and to pronounced hypotension. Despite increased plasma renin activity and plasma angiotensin (Ang) II levels, plasma aldosterone concentrations were normal, and the blood pressure response to exogenous Ang II was markedly diminished in septic rats. Mimicking the fall of blood pressure during sepsis by short-term infusion of the NO donor sodium nitroprusside in normal rats did not alter their blood pressure response to exogenous Ang II. Therefore, we considered the possibility of an altered expression of Ang II receptors during sepsis. It turned out that Ang II type 1 receptor expression was markedly downregulated in all organs of septic rats. Further in vitro studies with rat renal mesangial cells showed that NO and a combination of proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and interferon-gamma) downregulated Ang II type 1 receptor expression in a synergistic fashion. In summary, our data suggest that sepsis causes a systemic downregulation of Ang II type 1 receptors that is likely mediated by proinflammatory cytokines and NO. We suggest that this downregulation of Ang II type 1 receptors is the main reason for the attenuated responsiveness of blood pressure and of aldosterone formation to Ang II and, therefore, contributes to the characteristic septic shock.