The hemodynamic consequences of the hypoxic inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme activity were studied in chronically instrumented unanesthetized sheep (n = 8) breathing a hypoxic gas mixture for 60 min (PaO2 = 31 mm Hg) followed by reoxygenation with room air. Changes in cardiac output, vascular pressures, blood flow distribution, arterial pH, PaCO2, PaO2, and arterial levels of plasma renin activity, angiotensin II, bradykinin, and catecholamines were measured at selected time points. Seven additional sheep underwent the same protocol but received saralasin, an angiotensin II receptor blocker beginning at 55 min of hypoxia and extending into the reoxygenation period. During hypoxia, both groups developed identical hemodynamic patterns including a rise in cardiac output (25%), blood pressure (15%), and preferential blood flow distribution to the heart, brain, adrenals, diaphragm, and skeletal muscle, as well as a decrease in the fraction of cardiac output to the kidneys and most of the gut. This was associated with a decrease in angiotensin II concentrations (from 35 to 17 pg/ml) in spite of a doubling in plasma renin activity and catecholamines. Bradykinin levels did not change. Upon reoxygenation, bolus production of angiotensin II (from 17 to 1,819 pg/ml) occurred in spite of a constant level of plasma renin activity. Concurrently, different hemodynamic patterns between control and saralasin groups emerged upon reoxygenation, including an elevation from base line in blood pressure and systemic vascular resistance in the control group. Cardiac work (heart-rate systolic pressure product) in the control group remained elevated upon reoxygenation while coronary blood flow returned to base-line values. Saralasin reduced cardiac work upon reoxygenation and restored the match between coronary blood flow and work. We conclude that plasma renin activity and oxygen tension together govern angiotensin II levels for an optimal level of systemic vasomotor tone during hypoxia. However, upon reoxygenation, bolus production of angiotensin II may result in pathophysiologic circulatory patterns, such as impairment in oxygen delivery to the myocardium proportional to persistently elevated cardiac work in the immediate postresuscitation period.