The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that intracardiac angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity, chymase-like activity, and angiotensin (ANG) peptide levels are increased and are positively related to wall stress estimates in response to the chronic low pressure volume overload of mitral regurgitation produced by percutaneous chordal rupture in the dog. Chronic mitral regurgitation (MR) resulted in an increase in left ventricular (LV) end-diastolic volume [59 +/- 11 (SD) to 103 +/- 32 ml, P < 0.001], LV mass (96 +/- 17 to 114 +/- 23 g, P < 0.001), and a decrease in the LV mass-to-end-diastolic volume ratio (1.64 +/- 0.22 to 1.16 +/- 0.23 g/ml, P < 0.001) measured by magnetic resonance imaging. In vitro studies of heart tissue extracts demonstrated that the majority of ANG II-forming activity was from chymase-like activity rather than from ACE activity in five normal (83.5 +/- 7.5 vs. 6.04 +/- 5.2%) and seven MR hearts (86 +/- 3.9 vs. 2.6 +/- 1.7%). ACE activity (1.22 +/- 0.22 vs. 3.55 +/- 0.62 mU/g, P < 0.05) and chymase-like activity (9.42 +/- 4.64 vs. 20.60 +/- 8.41 nmol.g-1.min-1, P < 0.05) were increased in MR compared with normal hearts. ACE activity correlated with the LV mass-to-volume ratio (r = -0.93, P < 0.001) and LV diastolic wall stress ( r = 0.71, P < 0.05); however, chymase-like activity did not correlate with any hemodynamic parameter. ANG II levels were significantly higher in the midwall of the left ventricle in MR hearts than in normal controls (85 +/- 39 vs. 27 +/- 16 pg/g, P < 0.01). Our results demonstrate a positive correlation between LV diastolic wall stress and increased ACE activity with increased ANG II stores, suggesting that mechanical wall stress activated intracardiac ACE. Although chymase accounted for most ANG II formation in vitro in extracts of both normal and MR dog hearts, the significance of this enzyme in vivo remains unclear.