This work explores the notion that low-frequency, acquired aneuploidy may play a role in complex genetic traits such as essential hypertension. To this end, renal epithelial cells in urinary sediments and in renal cysts were examined by fluorescent in situ hybridization with DNA probes specific for the heterochromatic and centromere regions of chromosomes 16 and 1. Chromosome 16 was probed because it harbors variant genes causing monogenic hypertension. These genes have also been investigated for their role in essential hypertension. Chromosome 1 was also probed as an internal control. Higher proportions of renal epithelial cells in the urinary sediments showed monosomy of chromosome 16 than monosomy of chromosome 1 (P<0.001). We also observed in epithelial cells of renal cysts a preponderance of monosomy for chromosome 16 over monosomy for chromosome 1 (P<0.024). Low-frequency loss of heterozygosity that results from acquired monosomy of chromosome 16 and perhaps other chromosomes may contribute to expression of complex genetic traits such as essential hypertension, in which the diverse phenotypic manifestations are poorly understood.