In superfused anterior pituitary reaggregate cell cultures angiotensin II (AII) stimulated both spontaneous and dopamine-inhibited prolactin (PRL) release from subnanomolar concentrations. Angiotensin I (AI) and angiotensin III (AIII) also stimulated PRL release. The magnitude and rate of response to AI was equal to or only slightly lower than that to AII. However, the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors captopril and teprotide (1 microM) completely abolished the PRL response to 0.1 nM AI and strongly reduced that to 1 nM AI. The intrinsic activity of AIII was lower than that of AII but could be enhanced by adding 2 microM of the aminopeptidase inhibitor amastatin to the superfusion medium. After withdrawal of AIII, PRL secretion rate rapidly returned to baseline levels, whereas after withdrawal of AI or AII, secretion fell to a level remaining significantly higher than basal release. The present findings indicate that stimulation of PRL release by AI is weak unless it is converted into AII by ACE and that aminopeptidase may be important in determining the magnitude and termination of the PRL response. Furthermore, the active peptides induce a different pattern of response.