While previous studies have implicated a role for sympathetic postganglionic neuron-terminals in bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation, a recent report by Cambridge and Brain [Br. J. Pharmacol., 115 (1995) 641-647] has suggested that it is sympathetic-independent. However, the doses of bradykinin used in these two groups of studies were considerably different. Therefore, in the present study, we characterized the sympathetic-dependence of plasma extravasation at varying doses of bradykinin. By measuring the concentration of Evans blue dye extravasation into the joint perfusate following its intravenous injection, bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation in the knee joint cavity was determined spectrophotometrically. To examine the role of sympathetic postganglionic neuron terminals in mediating bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation, we used surgical ablation of the lumbar sympathetic chain. Intra-articular perfusion of BK dose-dependently increased synovial plasma extravasation. After surgical sympathectomy, the dose-response curve for bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation was significantly shifted to the right. We conclude that at concentrations observed in inflamed tissues (between 10(-8) and 10(-7) M), bradykinin-induced plasma extravasation is largely mediated by sympathetic postganglionic neuron terminals.