NaCl-sensitive spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR-S) were used to test the hypotheses that dietary Ca2+ supplementation 1) prevents NaCl-sensitive hypertension via a sympatholytic mechanism, and 2) increases diuretic and natriuretic responses to acute volume loading. SHR-S and control WKY rats were begun on one of four diets at age 8 wk: control, high NaCl, high Ca2+, or high NaCl and high Ca2+. In SHR-S, dietary Ca2+ supplementation prevented the NaCl-induced increases in blood pressure and plasma norepinephrine concentrations, the reductions in anterior hypothalamic norepinephrine stores and turnover, and the secondary increases in alpha 2 adrenoceptor number. Thus, Ca2+ prevented NaCl-sensitive hypertension in SHR-S by increasing noradrenergic input to the anterior hypothalamus. High-NaCl-fed SHR-S had impaired diuretic and natriuretic responses to an isotonic volume load; Ca2+ enhanced the ability of these animals to adjust fluid volume rapidly via diuresis and natriuresis. This alteration in renal function may contribute to the hypotensive effect of a high Ca2+ diet in NaCl-sensitive hypertension.