The effects of peripheral sympathectomy with nerve growth factor antiserum (NGFAS) on blood pressure, systemic hemodynamics, myocardial function, myocardial hypertrophy, and renin were studied in male spontaneously hypertensive (SH) rats of the Okamoto strain and normotensive control Kyoto-Wistar (WKY) rats. NGFAS prevented the development of hypertension in the SH rats but did not alter blood pressure in the WKY rats. The NGFAS-treated SH rats developed the same hemodynamic abnormalities as the sham-treated rats, including increased peripheral vascular resistance and depressed cardiac output. Indices of left ventricular performance, including peak flow velocity, stroke power, stroke work, dP/dt(max), and flow acceleration (dF/dt), were diminished in the SH rats compared to the WKY rats. NGFAS treament further depressed ventricular function in the SH rats, but had little effect on the WKY rats. Plasma renin activity in both the SH and WKY rats was unaffected by NGFAS treatment. Although NGFAS treatment effectively prevented the development of hypertension in the SH rats, it did not influence the development of left ventricular hypertrophy as reflected by increases in left ventricular mass, RNA, DNA, and hydroxyproline content. The data suggest that the development of myocardial hypertrophy and myocardial dysfunction in the SH rat is in part independent of hypertension and plasma renin activity.