The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of treatment with subcutaneous injections of recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEpo), 20-40 IU kg-1 body weight, 3 times a week, on resting blood pressure, blood pressure response during submaximal exercise, some haematological parameters, and subjective side-effects in 15 healthy male subjects. RhEpo increased both haemoglobin (Hb) concentration and haematocrit (Hct) significantly, the values for Hb being 152 +/- 4.2 g l-1 before treatment and 169 +/- 9.3 g l-1 (mean values +/- SD) after 6 weeks of rhEpo treatment (P less than 0.001). The corresponding values for Hct were 44.5 +/- 1.5% and 49.7 +/- 1.9% (P less than 0.001), respectively. The systolic and diastolic blood pressure values at rest were unchanged after rhEpo treatment. A marked increase in systolic blood pressure was observed during submaximal exercise at 200 W, the initial and final values being 177 +/- 14.2 mmHg and 191 +/- 19.5 mmHg (P less than 0.01), respectively. Heart rate during exercise at 200 W was significantly lower after rhEpo treatment than before it: 144 +/- 15 beats min-1 compared to 136 +/- 8 beats min-1 (P less than 0.001). The leucocyte count remained unchanged after rhEpo treatment, but there was a significant decrease (P less than 0.05) in the number of lymphocytes. Reticulocyte and platelet counts were unchanged. Serum (S) ferritin decreased from 87.3 +/- 41.8 mmol l-1 to 59.3 +/- 27.8 mmol l-1 after rhEpo treatment (P less than 0.001). Serum-Na, S-K, S-Ca, S-creatinine, S-bilirubin, S-aspartate aminotransferase (ASAT), S-alanine aminotransferase (ALAT), and S-lactate dehydrogenase (LD) were unchanged after rhEpo treatment. No subjective side-effects were reported. In conclusion, low doses of rhEpo increased Hb levels and Hct by more than 10% after 6 weeks. Blood pressure at rest was unchanged, but rhEpo induced a markedly accentuated blood pressure reaction during exercise. A minor decrease in the lymphocyte count was observed, but electrolyte and creatinine levels remained unchanged after rhEpo treatment.