The plasma concentration and the 24-h urinary excretion of vasopressin were studied in normal black and white men and women on a normal sodium (150 mmol/day) diet for 3 days and a low sodium (9 mmol/day; furosemide, 1 mg/kg on first day) diet for 4 days. During the normal sodium diet, the 24-h urinary excretion of vasopressin was significantly (P<0·05) higher in men than in women and higher (P<0·05) in black than in white subjects. Corresponding differences in plasma vasopressin concentrations (P<0·05 to 0·01) were observed, with the exception that the difference between white men and women was not statistically significant. These data suggest that under basal conditions the secretion of vasopressin is higher in men and black subjects than in women and white subjects, although differences in the metabolic clearance of vasopressin cannot be ruled out. Reduction in sodium intake resulted in a significantly (P<0·01) decreased excretion of vasopressin in all groups except black women, but had no effect on plasma vasopressin concentrations. Significant (P<0·01) differences with respect to sex and race persisted for vasopressin excretion, but not for plasma vasopressin concentrations. Sex- and race-related differences in vasopressin could not be attributed to differences in blood pressure, plasma volume or plasma sodium concentration. The physiological consequences of these differences in vasopressin remain to be determined.