The cardiovascular and respiratory effects of intravenous adenosine were studied in conscious normal volunteers. Bolus injections of adenosine increased systolic and diastolic pressures initially (+15 and +13 mm Hg after 100 micrograms/kg) followed by a subsequent reduction in systolic and diastolic pressures (-12 and -16 mm Hg). Heart rate increased during trough blood pressure (R-R interval shortening of 298 msec after 100 micrograms/kg). Adenosine steady-state infusions increased heart rate (+30 beats/min during 140 micrograms/kg/min), systolic pressure (+16 mm Hg), and pulse pressure (+21 mm Hg) but decreased diastolic pressure slightly (-5 mm Hg), resulting in no significant change in mean arterial pressure. Adenosine stimulated respiration, resulting in decreased PaCO2 (41 to 31 mm Hg), increased PaCO2 (101 to 113 mm Hg), and increased pH (7.42 to 7.50). The increased ventilation was not explained by bronchoconstriction, hypotension, or hypoxia. The observed pressor and tachycardic effects are mediated through reflex autonomic mechanisms since they are completely abolished in patients with severe autonomic failure. These autonomic mechanisms probably involve chemoreceptor activation since adenosine is pressor when infused in the aortic arch proximal to the origin of the carotid arteries but depressor when infused in the descending aorta. It is concluded that the hemodynamic and respiratory effects of adenosine observed in normal volunteers are in part due to chemoreceptor stimulation. These findings raise the possibility that adenosine is an endogenous modulator of respiration in man.