Central monoaminergic neurons, particularly noradrenergic neurons, are involved in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Dietary NaCl supplementation in NaCl-sensitive spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR-S) elevates blood pressure, increases peripheral sympathetic nervous system activity, and depresses endogenous noradrenaline stores and noradrenaline release in the anterior hypothalamus (AHA). NaCl-resistant spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR-R) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats are resistant to the NaCl-induced alterations in blood pressure and central and peripheral noradrenergic activity, whereas uninephrectomized Sprague-Dawley rats treated with DOCA + NaCl and Dahl-S rats receiving dietary NaCl supplementation develop NaCl-induced increments in blood pressure, but not depressed AHA noradrenaline release. The AHA is a major cardiovascular regulatory region, and depressor responses elicited by pharmacological (alpha 2-adrenoceptor) stimulation of this area are exaggerated in SHR-S fed a high NaCl diet compared to SHR-S fed a basal diet and SHR-R and WKY fed a high or basal NaCl diet. alpha 2-Adrenoceptors in the AHA are increased in number in SHR-S fed a high NaCl diet, presumably reflecting upregulation in response to reduced local noradrenaline release. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that decreased noradrenergic activity of sympathoinhibitory neurons in the AHA may mediate the exacerbation in hypertension that occurs in SHR-S during dietary NaCl supplementation.