Isoxsuprine, a beta-sympathomimetic agent used clinically to delay premature parturition and to possibly accelerate fetal lung maturation, was administered to pregnant rats at 48 and 24 h prior to delivery. Newborn rats were placed in 96-98% O2 (or room air) to determine if the prenatal isoxsuprine treatment compromised their tolerance to prolonged hyperoxic exposure. (Exogenous catecholamines are known to exacerbate O2 toxicity in adult animals). Survival of the isoxsuprine-treated pups in O2 (52%) was no different than for control neonates exposed to hyperoxia for 7 days (57%) (P = 0.22). Body weight, lung weight, lung protein, and DNA content of the newborns were also not altered by the prenatal isoxsuprine treatment. Lung antioxidant enzyme activities for superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase were the same at birth in the isoxsuprine-treated and control rat pups, and the enzyme activities increased in response to hyperoxic exposure in each group to an equivalent degree. Thus, in utero treatment with isoxsuprine had no apparent adverse effect on newborn rats exposed to a prolonged O2 challenge.