The effects of 48-h starvation on the physiological responses to a 30-min infusion of epinephrine at 25 ng.min-1.kg body wt-1 were studied in 11 normal-weight healthy young subjects. Starvation led to considerable alterations in basal metabolism including a significant (mean 3.6%) increase in resting metabolic rate. During the infusions, plasma epinephrine concentration rose less in the starved state (+1.47 nmol/l) than in the normally fed state (+1.73 nmol/l) (SE 0.06 nmol/l; P less than 0.05). The maximum increments (mean +/- SE) in heart rate induced by epinephrine were 11.9 +/- 1.3 beats/min in the normally fed state and 20.1 +/- 2.0 beats/min in the starved state (P less than 0.001); the corresponding mean increments in blood glycerol concentration were 0.07 and 0.14 mmol/l (SE 0.01 mmol/l; P less than 0.01). The increase in the metabolic rate above base line during the final 10 min of the epinephrine infusion was 0.58 +/- 0.18 kJ/min in the normally fed state and 0.78 +/- 0.14 kJ/min in the starved state (P less than 0.01). The chronotropic, lipolytic, and thermogenic effects of infused epinephrine were therefore enhanced by prior starvation, despite the lower plasma epinephrine levels.