Forty-two patients with congestive heart failure were studied in order to clarify whether the plasma level of neuropeptide Y-like immunoreactivity (NPY-LI) rises in parallel with plasma noradrenaline (NA) during physical exercise in congestive heart failure (CHF). All patients were studied in a randomized placebo-controlled trial with the ACE-inhibitor ramipril during 12 weeks to determine whether ACE-inhibition alters the response of plasma NPY-LI to exercise. The patients were treated with diuretics and had stable congestive heart failure (NYHA classes II-III). Plasma NPY-LI was 50 +/- 5 pmol l-1 (mean +/- standard error of the mean) at rest and 60 +/- 6 pmol l-1 at the end of exercise at baseline (P < 0.01). The corresponding values for plasma NA were 2.8 +/- 0.2 nmol l-1 and 15.3 +/- 1.2 nmol l-1 (P < 0.001). Before ACE-inhibition, there was a correlation between high NPY-LI and NA values after exercise. After treatment with ramipril or placebo for 12 weeks, there was no difference in plasma NPY-LI and NA at rest or after exercise between the two treatment groups. The maximal exercise time was unchanged. It is concluded that plasma NPY-LI and NA were elevated at rest in CHF. The additional rise of plasma NPY-LI and NA after exercise was attenuated in CHF compared to healthy individuals. ACE-inhibition with ramipril did not alter plasma NPY-LI or NA at rest or after exercise compared to placebo.