We have previously reported that the biological activity of rat atrial extract declines with age. The present study was undertaken to further evaluate the natriuretic, hypotensive and immunological properties of fractionated and HPLC purified atrial extracts prepared from young and old rats. Acetic acid extracts were prepared and subsequently fractionated by gel permeation chromatography. The high (> 10,000 daltons) and low (≤ 10,000 daltons) molecular weight fractions were collected, lyophilized and assayed. Radioimmunoassay competitive binding curves of the initial and fractionated extracts were parallel (p > 0.05) to the synthetic ANP101-126 standard. No differences in parallelism (p > 0.05) were observed in the natriuretic activity of the initial extracts, the low molecular weight (LMW) fractions from both age groups, the 290 day high molecular weight (HMW) fraction or the synthetic ANP standard. However, the natriuretic activity of the 15 day HMW fraction was significantly attenuated compared to the other treatment groups (p < 0.05). The initial 15 day extract was also significantly more hypotensive than the 290 day extract (p < 0.05). HMW extracts were subjected to HPLC and the resulting immunoreactive ANP peak was reassayed. Based on SDS-PAGE and immuno blot analysis, the HPLC purified fraction was found to contain only immunoreactive proANP. Subsequent bioassay revealed greater hypotension and reduced natriuretic activity in the 15 day proANP fraction in comparison to a similarly prepared extract from older animals. Thus, we conclude that qualitative differences in the biological properties of atrial extracts may be ascribable to age-related changes in the composition of proANP or to other undefined biologically active atrial substance(s). © 1989.