Desmethylimipramine (DMI, 1 mg DMI . HCl kg-1) and normetanephrine (NMN, 1 microgram min-1 g-0.74) were used to inhibit, respectively, neuronal and extraneuronal uptakes of noradrenaline (NA) during calorigenesis induced in barbital-sedated warm-acclimated (WA) or cold-acclimated (CA) rats by infusion of NA, a procedure which mimics the effects of NA released within calorigenic tissues in response to cold exposure. The doses of the inhibitors were selected for maximal effectiveness in potentiating calorigenic response and for minimal side effects. For rats of either acclimation group treated with DMI and NMN, with DMI only, or with neither inhibitor the doses of NA required to evoke approximately half-maximal calorigenic responses were, respectively, 0.5, 1.0, and 3.5 ng min-1 g-0.74. The corresponding steady-state concentrations of NA in arterial plasma averaged 14.3, 21.7, and 43.2 nM in the three groups of WA rats and 10.0, 14.8, and 31.9 nM in the three groups of CA rats. Reduction by NA uptake inhibitors of the circulating levels of NA necessary to stimulate calorigenesis, half-maximally, presumably in brown adipose tissue, indicates a reduction in the steepness of the NA concentration gradient between capillary plasma and synaptic clefts in that tissue. The steady-state concentration of NA in blood plasma of rats treated with DMI and NMN and infused with NA at a dose of 0.5 ng min-1 g-0.74 (approximately 1 x 10(-8) M) is a good estimate of the NA concentration required at calorigenic adrenoceptors to effect half-maximal activation. Presumably, this concentration is also an estimate of that resulting from NA released at nerve endings during cold-induced activation of nonshivering thermogenesis at half-maximal rates in brown adipose tissue.