The authors examined the effects of hypoxia (8% O2 in N2) on the turnover rates of norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (E) in the heart, adrenal gland, submaxillary gland and stomach. The turnover rates were estimated by measuring the decrease in the content of NE and E after an i.p. injection of alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine (250 mg/kg), an inhibitor of tyrosine hydroxylase. After a 4-h exposure to hypoxia, the turnover rate of NE in the heart and those of NE and E in the adrenal gland were increased, whereas that of NE in the submaxillary gland was decreased. The turnover rate of NE in the stomach was unchanged. Pretreatment with hexamethonium, a ganglionic nicotinic receptor blocker, abolished the hypoxia-induced changes in the turnover rate of NE or E in the heart, adrenal gland and submaxillary gland. Furthermore, transection of the spinal cord at the level of C5-6 abolished hypoxia-induced alterations in the turnover rate of NE and E in the adrenal gland and submaxillary gland. In contrast, the hypoxia-induced changes seen in the heart persisted, although at a lower level, even after transection. These results show that the effects of hypoxia on the activities of the sympathoadrenal system differ depending on the organs; activities are increased in the heart and adrenal gland, decreased in the submaxillary gland and unchanged in the stomach. Furthermore, the present data suggest that hypoxia-induced alterations in the activities of cardiac sympathetic nerves originate in both the brain and spinal cord, including preganglionic neurons, whereas changes in the activities of the sympathetic nerves to the adrenal gland and submaxillary gland originate mainly in the brain.