The kidney is probably critically involved in the development of essential hypertension, as in many genetic models of hypertension. We have investigated whether a narrowed renal afferent arteriole is involved in the pathogenesis of hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Systolic blood pressure of 37 F2 generation spontaneously hypertensive rats/Wistar-Kyoto rats was measured at age 7 weeks. The right kidney was removed, and lumen diameter and media cross-sectional area of the afferent arterioles were measured after having been fixed while relaxed and under a transmural pressure of 100 mm Hg. The uninephrectomized rats continued until age 23 weeks, when mean blood pressure was measured. Mean blood pressure at 23 weeks was negatively correlated with lumen diameter at 7 weeks. Quartile analysis based on lumen diameter at 7 weeks showed that compared with rats in the top lumen diameter quartile, rats in the bottom lumen diameter quartile had a reduced media cross-sectional area at 7 weeks (17%), the same systolic blood pressure at 7 weeks, and an increased (16%) mean blood pressure at 23 weeks. We conclude that in spontaneously hypertensive rats a narrowed lumen of distal afferent arterioles at 7 weeks contributes to later development of increased blood pressure. This reduced lumen could be caused by inhibited renal afferent arteriole growth.