Recipients of heart-lung transplants represent an unusual opportunity to study the regulation of ventilation, because the neural pathways between the lungs and the central nervous system are disrupted in these patients. We compared the ventilation response in seven recipients of heart-lung transplants who had normal pulmonary function and seven recipients of heart transplants, all of whom performed incremental bicycle ergometry. The level of ventilation in recipients of heart-lung transplants was similar to that in heart-transplant recipients for equivalent levels of carbon dioxide production. Arterial pH and partial pressure of carbon dioxide at maximal exercise were normal and not significantly different in the two groups, also suggesting that levels of ventilation were appropriate in both groups. However, the rate of the rise in respiratory rate for increasing levels of ventilation was significantly lower in recipients of heart-lung transplants than in heart-transplant recipients, and the initial increase in tidal volume was more rapid in the former group than in the latter. Thus, recipients of heart-lung transplants have an appropriate level of ventilation during exercise as the result of a disproportionate increase in tidal volume at a reduced respiratory rate. We speculate that intrapulmonary receptors are important in regulating the pattern, but not the absolute level, of ventilation during exercise.