The renin-angiotensin system in sub-genus Mus displays unique features including duplication of the renin gene in most strains, strong expression of the second gene in submandibular gland of males, and inhibited responses to injected renin. Our findings indicate that this inhibition results from a paucity of renin substrate and is consistent with first-order kinetics. We find substrate paucity to be a feature of both sexes and all sub-species and strains of Mus irrespective of gene duplication. Attempts to increase the level of substrate in blood by intravenous injection caused marked increases in blood pressure in Mus, suggesting that substrate paucity was a phenotypic prerequisite for successful emergence of enhanced renin expression in salivary gland. We propose that these phenomena are linked to salivary "lethal factor", possibly transferred by biting, in an evolutionary sequence that has provided a major selective advantage for Mus and influenced the ecology and evolution of rodents.