To evaluate the role of beta-adrenergic receptors in the control of human sweating, we studied six subjects during 40 min of cycle-ergometer exercise (60% maximal O2 consumption) at 22 degrees C 2 h after oral administration of placebo or nonselective beta-blockade (BB, 80 mg propranolol). Internal temperature (esophageal temperature, Tes), mean skin temperature (Tsk), local chest temperature (Tch), and local chest sweat rate (msw) were continuously recorded. The control of sweating was best described by the slope of the linear relationship between msw and Tes and the threshold Tes for the onset of sweating. The slope of the msw-Tes relationship decreased 27% (P less than 0.01), from 1.80 to 1.30 mg X cm-2 X min-1 X degree C-1 during BB. The Tes threshold for sweating (36.8 degrees C) was not altered as the result of BB. These data suggest that BB modified the control of sweating via some peripheral interaction. Since Tsk was significantly (P less than 0.05) reduced during BB exercise, from a control value of 32.8 to 32.2 degrees C, we evaluated the influence of the reduction in local skin temperature (Tsk) in the altered control of sweating. Reductions in Tch accounted for only 45% of the decrease in the slope of the msw-Tes relationship during BB. Since evaporative heat loss requirement during exercise with BB, as estimated from the energy balance equation, was also reduced 18%, compared with control exercise, we concluded that during BB the reduction in sweating at any Tes is the consequence of both a decrease in local Tsk and a direct effect on sweat gland.