Arterial baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) is markedly reduced in middle-aged patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), due to the combined effects of aging, arterial stiffening, and autonomic neuropathy. Much less is known about the effects of ESRD on arterial baroreflex in juvenile patients. Therefore, we investigated baroreflex function and its relation to carotid artery elasticity and heart rate variability in children and young adults with ESRD. We studied 42 subjects (9-30 years): 14 patients on maintenance hemodialysis (HD), 14 renal transplant recipients (RT), and 14 healthy control subjects (C). Baroreflex function was determined by pharmacological (BRS) and spontaneous (sequence and spectral indices) techniques. Carotid artery elasticity was characterized by stiffness index beta. Heart rate variability was assessed using time and frequency domain measures. Data are expressed as mean+/-s.d. BRS was markedly reduced in HD as compared to C (10.0+/-4.2 vs 25.7+/-5.9 ms/mm Hg); spontaneous indices were reduced to similar extent. Carotid artery stiffness was approximately 50% higher in HD than in C and was inversely related to BRS. Heart rate variability was also compromised in HD, and was directly related to spontaneous indices. No significant differences existed in any of these variables between RT and C. Decreased baroreflex function in juvenile HD is partly due to loss of carotid artery elasticity and partly due to impaired heart rate variability. Renal transplantation may partly prevent impairment or improve compromised baroreflex function in young patients with ESRD.