Components of the renin-angiotensin system play an important role in the normal regulation of blood pressure. We carried out a comprehensive genetic linkage study of the genes involved in the renin-angiotensin cascade in Finnish hypertensive twins and their affected siblings. We found no evidence for linkage between essential hypertension and the genes coding for renin, angiotensinogen, angiotensin-converting enzyme, or kallikrein 1 in the 329 hypertensive individuals of 142 families studied. In contrast, two intragenic markers for the type 1 angiotensin II receptor (AT1) showed some evidence for linkage in the total sample. A closer examination of this gene locus was carried out using subgroups of nonobese sibpairs with early onset of hypertension and uniform geographical origin. These stratifications yielded suggestive evidence for linkage of hypertension to the genetic area containing the AT1 gene, with a maximal multipoint logarithm of the odds (LOD) score of 2.9. A genetic association study carried out in an independent series of 50 hypertensive cases and 122 normotensive controls showed an increase in the frequency of the A1166-->C allele of the AT1 gene in the hypertensive individuals. In a novel variant of model-free multipoint linkage analysis allowing linkage disequilibrium in the calculations, an LOD score of 5.13 was obtained. Sequence analyses of the entire coding region and 848 bp of promoter region in the DNA sample on 8 index samples did not reveal previously unpublished sequence variations. The data provide evidence that a common genetic variant of the AT1 gene locus influences the risk of essential hypertension in the Finnish population.