In this paper, we review our current understanding of the medicinal chemistry of the major peptide systems, which influence body fluid homeostasis. Electrolytes play pivotal roles in intra- and intercellular communication, acidbase equilibrium and, when bound to several macromolecules, they regulate a myriad of enzymatic proteins, receptors and transcription factors. Cell turgor influences the plasma membrane, which activates mechanically-gated ion channels or mechanoreceptors, and the expression of a number of genes which underlie long-term metabolic responses to hormones, substrates and reactive oxygen intermediates. The altered kinetics and enzymatic cleavage of peptides during waterelectrolyte imbalance can contribute to cardiac and renal damage associated with elevated blood pressure. Identification of the enzymes which are responsible for cleavage, together with emerging information about the mechanisms of action and structures of regulatory and effector peptides, has laid a foundation for the discovery of novel drugs, some of which are in use or are now undergoing evaluation in experimental trials. The development of models of hydrosaline challenge with relative efficiency to induce selective water-electrolyte imbalance has permitted the identification of kallikrein-kinin, renin-angiotensin-aldosterone, vasopressin-oxytocin, thyrotropin-releasing hormone and luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone as susceptible substrates. At present, the angiotensin-I converting enzyme inhibitors are well-known efficacious, orally active, blood pressure-lowering agents which have been used in hypertensive patients. In addition to several new analogues of this class of drug, some selective dual inhibitors of angiotensin-I converting enzyme and neutral endopeptidase and inhibitors of aminopeptidases are now also being rationally assayed and their beneficial effects on hypertension and hydromineral balance indicate that this type of drug may have powerful therapeutic effects for disorders of body fluid homeostasis.