1. In the present study, we determined the effect of diet-induced obesity on cardiovascular and metabolic regulation in mice at standard laboratory temperatures (ambient temperature (Ta) = 22 degrees C) and during exposure to thermoneutrality (Ta = 30 degrees C). 2. Male C57BL/6J (B6) mice fed a high-fat diet (HFF; n = 17) or chow (CHW; n = 14) for 15 weeks were surgically instrumented with telemetry devices, housed in metabolic chambers and assigned to either control or atenolol treatment (25 mg/kg per day in drinking water) to determine the effects of obesity on baseline cardiovascular function and on the responses to thermoneutrality and 24 h fasting. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR), arterial pressure and HR variability (time and frequency domain), oxygen consumption (VO2) and locomotor activity were determined. 3. The HFF mice exhibited increased bodyweight (+10.6 +/- 4.1 g), moderate light period hypertension (+8.6 +/- 2.6 mmHg), no difference in HR and increased HR variability at standard laboratory temperature compared with CHW controls. Atenolol produced less of a decrease in HR in HFF mice (-42 +/- 10 b.p.m.) compared with CHW controls (-73 +/- 15 b.p.m.). Acute exposure to thermoneutrality (Ta = 30 degrees C) reduced HR similarly in both HFF and CHW mice (approximately 175 b.p.m.), but reduced MAP less in HFF than in CHW mice (-7.3 +/- 2.5 and -15.2 +/- 1.0 mmHg), respectively. Atenolol treatment had only minor effects on the HR response to thermonuetrality (-114 +/- 13 and -129 +/- 8 b.p.m. in HFF and CHW mice, respectively). The HFF mice displayed greater fasting-induced reductions in light period MAP than did CHW mice (-10.0 +/- 1.1 vs-3.1 +/- 3.5 mmHg, respectively), whereas HR was decreased equally in both groups. Fasting-induced increases in HR variability were attenuated in HFF mice. 4. We conclude that diet-induced obesity produced generally minor changes in cardiovascular regulation in B6 mice at baseline, some of which are distinct from the effects of diet-induced obesity in larger animal models. In contrast, acute variations in Ta or caloric availability produce pronounced alterations in cardiovascular function in either lean or obese mice, which are generally evident after atenolol and, thus, presumably not due exclusively to variation in cardiac sympathetic activity. Interestingly, the degree of obesity induced hypertension was augmented when mice were studied at thermonuetrality. The results suggest an important unrecognized role for vagal tone in the regulation of cardiovascular function in mice and support the need for considerable caution when using mouse models of obesity to examine regulation of cardiovascular function. We argue that mouse physiology studies should be performed in thermoneutral conditions.