Ketanserin, a 5-HT type 2 receptor antagonist, was administered intravenously to nine patients with essential hypertension in a double-blind placebo controlled study to investigate the drug's effects on blood pressure, heart rate, the renin-angiotensin system and sympatho-adrenal function. Average blood-pressure for the group prior to injection of the drug was 150 +/- 7/94 +/- 4 (s.e. mean) mm Hg and decreased significantly (P less than 0.01) to 137 +/- 8/88 +/- 5 mm Hg during the 2 h after injection; heart rate increased immediately after injection of ketanserin, reaching a maximum of 81 +/- 4 beats/min. After drug administration systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased on tilting, but the heart rate response was not different from that with placebo. Ketanserin did not affect the blood pressure response to graded infusion of the alpha 1-adrenoceptor agonist phenylephrine. Plasma active renin, angiotensin II and aldosterone concentrations increased slightly but not significantly after the drug; plasma noradrenaline increased transiently. 5-HT may be important in the maintenance of blood pressure but alternative mechanisms for the action of ketanserin in reducing blood pressure require investigation.