BACKGROUND Administration of a selective β1-blocker, such as esmolol, in human septic shock has demonstrated cardiovascular protective effects related to heart rate reduction. Certain experimental data also indicate that esmolol exerts systemic anti-inflammatory and beneficial effects on vascular tone. Thus, the present study aimed to determine whether a non-chronotropic dose of esmolol maintains its protective cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory effects in experimental septic shock. METHODS Four hours after cecal ligation and puncture (CLP), Wistar male rats were randomly allocated to the following groups (n = 8): CLP, CLP + E-1 (esmolol: 1 mg.kg-1.h-1), CLP + E-5 (esmolol: 5 mg.kg-1.h-1), CLP + E-18 (esmolol: 18 mg.kg-1.h-1). An additional eight rats underwent sham operation. All rats received a continuous infusion of saline, analgesic and antibiotics 4 hours after the surgery. Assessment at 18 hours included in vivo cardiac function assessed by echocardiography and ex vivo vasoreactivity assessed by myography. Circulating cytokine levels (IL-6 and IL-10) were measured by ELISA. Cardiac and vascular protein expressions of p-NF-κB, IκBα, iNOS, p-AKT/AKT and p-eNOS/eNOS were assessed by western blotting. RESULTS CLP induced tachycardia, hypotension, cardiac output reduction, hyperlactatemia and vascular hypo-responsiveness to vasopressors. Compared to CLP animals, heart rate was unchanged in CLP + E-1 and CLP + E-5 but was reduced in CLP + E-18. Stroke volume, cardiac output, mean arterial pressure and lactatemia were improved in CLP + E-1 and CLP + E-5, while vascular responsiveness to phenylephrine was only improved in CLP + E-5 and CLP + E-18. Plasma IL-6 levels were decreased in all esmolol groups. p-NF-κB was decreased in both cardiac and vascular tissues in CLP + E-5 and CLP + E-18. CONCLUSION In experimental septic shock, low doses of esmolol still improved cardiac function and vasoreactivity. These benefits appear to be associated with a modulation of inflammatory pathways.