We studied the contributions of hypoxemia, hypocapnia, and hyperpnea to the acute hypoxic diuretic response (HDR) in humans and evaluated the role of peripheral O(2) chemosensitivity and renal hormones in HDR. Thirteen healthy male subjects (age 19-38 yr) were examined after sodium equilibration (intake: 120 mmol/day) during 90 min of normoxia (NO), poikilocapnic hypoxia (PH), and isocapnic hypoxia (IH) (days 1-3, random order, double blind), as well as normoxic voluntary hyperpnea (HP; day 4), matching ventilation during IH. O(2) saturation during PH and IH was kept equal to a mean level measured between 30 and 90 min of breathing 12% O(2) in a pretest. Urine flow during PH and IH (1.81 +/- 0.92 and 1.94 +/- 1.03 ml/min, respectively) but not during HP (1.64 +/- 0.96 ml/min) significantly exceeded that during NO (control, 1.38 +/- 0.71 ml/min). Urine flow increases vs. each test day's baseline were significant with PH, IH, and HP. Differences in glomerular filtration rate, fractional sodium clearance, urodilatin, systemic blood pressure, or leg venous compliance were excluded as factors of HDR. However, slight increases in plasma and urinary endothelin-1 and epinephrine with PH and IH could play a role. In conclusion, the early HDR in humans is mainly due to hypoxia and hypocapnia. It occurs without natriuresis and is unrelated to O(2) chemosensitivity (hypoxic ventilatory response).