The effect of alpha-1-adrenoceptor blockade with 0.25 mg oral prazosin on the renal response to atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) 5 pmol/kg/min was examined in eight healthy male volunteers undergoing maximal water diuresis. ANF on its own decreased mean arterial blood pressure (P less than 0.05) without altering heart rate or increasing plasma norepinephrine. ANF increased urinary sodium excretion by 130% (P less than 0.01) from baseline value with accompanying 18% decrease (P less than 0.05) in PAH clearance (ERPF) without changing inulin clearance (GFR). When compared to placebo infusion, ANF infusion caused a significant increase in fractional excretion lithium (FELi), a marker of proximal tubular function. Fractional distal delivery of sodium, another marker of proximal tubular outflow as determined by free water clearance, was also increased during ANF infusion. As expected, ANF decreased distal nephron fractional sodium reabsorption as evaluated by both the "lithium method" and by the conventional "solute-free water method." Prazosin on its own had no effect on blood pressure, renal function or hormonal parameters. When given in combination with ANF, prazosin blunted the natriuretic effect of ANF from 130% to 35% (P less than 0.01). However, prazosin pretreatment did not influence the ANF-induced fall in blood pressure or ERPF nor the ANF-induced suppression of plasma aldosterone. We have therefore found evidence to support the hypothesis that at basal levels of sympathetic tone, the natriuretic effect of ANF in man is dependent on an intact sympathetic nervous system, since sympathetic blockade by prazosin blunts its sodium excretory effects.