Hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart attack and stroke and represents a major public health burden because of its high prevalence (e.g. 15-20% of the European and American populations). Although blood pressure is known to have a strong genetic determination, the genes responsible for susceptibility to essential hypertension are mostly unknown. Loci involved in blood pressure regulation have been found by linkage in experimental hereditary hypertensive rat strains, but their relationship to human hypertension has not been extensively investigated. One of the principal blood pressure loci has been mapped to rat chromosome 10 and we have undertaken an investigation of the homologous region on human chromosome 17 in familial essential hypertension. Affected sib-pair analysis and parametric analysis with ascertainment correction gave significant evidence of linkage ( P <0.0001 in some analyses) near two closely linked microsatellite markers, D17S183 and D17S934, that reside 18 cM proximal to the ACE locus in the homology region. Our results indicate that chromosome 17q could contain a susceptibility locus for human hypertension and show that comparative mapping may be a useful approach for identification of such loci in humans.