Vascular effects of neuropeptide Y (NPY) and noradrenaline (NA) were studied in six human volunteers. Systemic infusion of human NPY for 40 min (5 pmol X kg-1 X min-1) increased arterial plasma NPY-like immunoreactivity (NPY-LI) from 12 +/- 2 to 356 +/- 30 pM. This concentration caused no systemic cardiovascular effects. The disappearance curve for NPY-LI was biphasic; the slopes of the two phases corresponding to half lives of 4.1 +/- 0.4 and 20 +/- 2 min respectively. Close i.a. infusion of human NPY in the forearm caused a slowly developing and dose dependent decrease in forearm blood flow (FBF) and increase in venous tone with maximal values of 44 +/- 6 and 235 +/- 81% of control respectively at 5 nmol X min-1. The corresponding values for NA (5 nmol X min-1) were 21 +/- 9 and 489 +/- 78% of control. A threshold concentration for a decrease in FBF was obtained at a plasma NPY-LI of 3.7 +/- 0.6 nM. The decrease in FBF caused by NPY was maintained for a much longer period compared to that of NA.