A chronically increased rate of catecholamine release has various deleterious actions. Isoproterenol injections (80 mg/kg body weight) resulted in depressed Ca2+ transport in the sarcolemma (ATP-dependent Ca2+ uptake, Na+-dependent Ca2+ uptake) and sarcoplasmic reticulum (Ca2+ uptake) of rat heart. The formation of malondialdehyde owing to lipid peroxidation was increased. Pretreatment with vitamin E (10-25 mg/kg/day) strongly inhibited the membrane damage. The toxic effects of catecholamines arise most probably from their oxidation, and it is therefore important either to reduce the central sympathetic outflow or to prevent the oxidation. An inappropriately high sympathetic outflow is a typical feature of Western affluent societies, and is linked to psychosocial stress and hypercaloric nutrition. However, established pharmacologic interventions to reduce sympathetic outflow have proven not practicable because of marked side effects. Using radiotelemetry for monitoring cardiovascular parameters of spontaneously hypertensive rats treated with clonidine or moxonidine, we showed that clonidine, unlike moxonidine, resulted in rebound hypertension after drug withdrawal. Because the rebound blood pressure and the typical side effects of clonidine associated with low patient compliance are mainly mediated by α-adrenoceptors, it can be inferred that the I1-imidazoline agonist moxonidine does not exhibit the side effects commonly seen with clonidine and therefore represents a promising approach for reducing an inappropriately high central sympathetic outflow.