The classical view of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) as a circulating endocrine system has evolved to organ- and tissue-based systems that perform paracrine/autocrine functions. Angiotensin II (Ang II), the dominant effector peptide of the RAS, regulates cellular growth in a wide variety of tissues in (patho)biological states. In 1996, we hypothesized that there exists a locally active RAS in the bone marrow affecting the growth, production, proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic cells. Evidences supporting this hypothesis are growing. Ang II, through interacting with Ang II type I (AT1) receptor stimulates erythroid differentiation. This stimulatory effect of Ang II on erythropoiesis was completely abolished by a specific AT1 receptor antagonist, losartan. AT1a receptors are present on human CD34(+) hematopoietic stem cells. Ang II increases hematopoietic progenitor cell proliferation and this effect was also blocked by losartan. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) is involved in enhancing the recruitment of primitive stem cells into S-phase in hematopoietic bone marrow by degrading tetrapeptide AcSDKP. ACE inhibitors modified the circulating hematopoietic progenitors in healthy subjects. RAS may also affect pathological/neoplastic hematopoiesis. Renin has been isolated from leukemic blast cells. Higher bone marrow ACE levels in acute leukemic patients suggested that ACE is produced at higher quantities in the leukemic bone marrow. In this review, the 'State of the Art' of the local bone marrow RAS is summarized. A local RAS in the bone marrow can mediate, in an autocrine/paracrine fashion, some of the principal steps of hematopoietic cell production. To show a causal link between the components of RAS and the other regulatory hematopoietic growth factors is not only an academic curiosity. Elucidation of such a local bone marrow system may offer novel therapeutic approaches in pathologic/neoplastic conditions. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.