Epinephrine has effects on both blood flow and metabolism in adipose tissue. To investigate how these effects might interact in vivo, epinephrine was infused into six healthy volunteers at a rate of 25 ng.kg-1.min-1. The rates of action of lipoprotein lipase and hormone-sensitive lipase in adipose tissue were calculated by measurement of arteriovenous differences across subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, and adipose tissue blood flow was measured. Epinephrine caused a significant rise in adipose tissue blood flow (P < 0.001), and the net efflux of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) from adipose tissue increased significantly (P < 0.05). Most of this efflux could be accounted for by hormone-sensitive lipase-derived NEFA efflux from cells (P < 0.05), but there was also a significant rise in the contribution of lipoprotein lipase-derived NEFA (P < 0.05). We conclude that adipose tissue blood flow plays an important role in the regulation of lipid metabolism, controlling substrate presentation for lipoprotein lipase and also preventing the local accumulation of fatty acids derived from both hormone-sensitive lipase and lipoprotein lipase.