Our previous studies demonstrated that acute infusion of atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) produces an enhanced depressor response in NaCl-sensitive spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR-S) fed a high (8%) NaCl diet compared with control SHR-S fed a normal (1%) NaCl diet and that dietary NaCl loading increases circulating ANF levels in Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats but not in SHR-S. The current study tested the hypotheses that 1) long-term infusion of ANF at a dose that elevates plasma ANF to levels comparable with those seen in high NaCl-fed WKY rats prevents the NaCl-induced exacerbation of hypertension in SHR-S and 2) ANF lowers blood pressure in this model by a sympatholytic effect. Male SHR-S received infusions of ANF (0.1 μg/hr) or vehicle intravenously via osmotic minipump for 3 weeks beginning immediately before initiation of 1% or 8% NaCl diets at age 7 weeks. Chronic ANF infusion prevented the increase in arterial pressure in response to a high NaCl diet in SHR-S but had no effect in 1% NaCl-fed SHR-S. Thus, the NaCl-sensitive component of hypertension in SHR-S was more sensitive to ANF than the non-NaCl-sensitive component. Plasma nonrepinephrine was significantly increased in ANF-treated, 8% NaCl-fed SHR-S compared with vehicle controls, suggesting that ANF did not prevent NaCl-sensitive hypertension by a sympatholytic effect. During ANF infusion, plasma ANF was increased by only 36% and 40% in the 1% and 8% NaCl groups, respectively, so that long-term infusion of exogenous ANF in a dose that resulted in plasma ANF levels well within the physiological range abolished the NaCl-induced exacerbation of hypertension in SHR-S. The data suggest that a deficiency in circulating endogenous ANF may play a role in NaCl-sensitive hypertension in this model.