1. The purpose of the study was to assess and compare the effects of inhaled salbutamol on heart rate (HR), finger tremor (Tr) and specific airways conductance (sGaw) in the measurement of beta 2-adrenoceptor blockade in normal subjects. 2. Five healthy volunteers were given oral doses of atenolol 50 mg, 100 mg, 200 mg (A50, A100, A200), propranolol 40 mg (P40) or identical placebo (P1) in a single-blind crossover design. 3. Three hours after drug ingestion, dose-response curves were constructed using cumulative doses of inhaled salbutamol: 200 micrograms, 700 micrograms, 1700 micrograms, 3200 micrograms, 6200 micrograms. HR, Tr and sGaw were measured at each dose increment, made every 20 min. 4. Increasing doses of atenolol were associated with progressive reduction in salbutamol induced beta-adrenoceptor responses. The greatest attenuation occurred with propranolol. These effects on beta-adrenoceptor responses were similar for HR, Tr and sGaw. Geometric mean dose ratios (compared with placebo) for A50, A100, A200 and P40 were as follows HR: 1.98, 2.75, 4.29; Tr: 1.60, 3.78, 6.34, 80.50; sGaw: 1.08, 4.35, 12.30, 66.0 (no dose ratio was obtained for HR with P40). 5. These results showed that atenolol and propranolol attenuated the effects of salbutamol on HR to a similar degree as Tr and sGaw. Furthermore, the variability was least in the measurement of chronotropic responses, suggesting that this may be used to quantify beta 2-adrenoceptor antagonism. The beta 1-adrenoceptor selectivity of atenolol was a dose-dependent phenomenon, although the beta 2-adrenoceptor blockade of A200 was much less than with P40.