The relationship between sympathetic responsiveness and the blood pressure reduction induced by long-term beta-blockade was assessed in patients with essential hypertension. The increase in plasma noradrenaline concentration during physical exercise was used as an index of sympathetic responsiveness. The cardioselective beta-blocker, atenolol, was given to 16 patients with sustained benign essential hypertension for five weeks at a dose of 200 mg/day. Atenolol induced a marked decrease in blood pressure and pulse rate during recumbency, orthostasis and exercise concomitant with a marked increase in plasma noradrenaline concentration (p less than 0.0125) and a pronounced decrease in plasma renin concentration (p less than 0.01). The ratio of plasma noradrenaline during exercise to the base line concentration correlated significantly with the subsequent decrease in mean arterial blood pressure induced by beta-blockade (r = 0.840; p less than 0.001). A less significant correlation was observed between the plasma renin concentration and the subsequent decrease in mean arterial pressure (r = 0.542; p less than 0.05). The results obtained indicate that sympathetic responsiveness is an important determinant of blood pressure response to beta-blockade induced by atenolol.