Pharmacological manipulation of peripheral resistance via sodium nitroprusside and phenylephrine was used to study baroreflex function over the latter two-thirds of incubation in embryonic chickens. From day 9 to day 19 of incubation, there is a positive linear relation between heart rate and blood pressure, indicating the feedforward action of arterial pressure on heart rate. A reciprocal relationship between blood pressure and heart rate became pronounced during the last 3 days of incubation. For the purpose of the study, gain of the baroreflex was calculated as maximal gain (only those embryos that demonstrated the response) or average gain (all embryos). Maximal gain increased progressively from 13 +/- 7 beats. min(-1). kPa(-1) at 18 days to 105 +/- 83 beats. min(-1). kPa(-1) in 2-day-old hatchlings. The percentage of embryos older than 18 days with baroreflex responses increased from 33% on day 19 to 56% on day 21, indicating that baroreflex regulation begins late in incubation ( approximately 90% incubation time), and the gain of this reflex exhibits a maturation over the final 3 days of incubation.