Dose- and age-related hemodynamic effects were determined for an anesthetic substituted phenol, 2,6-di-sec-butyl phenol (DSB). DSB, 7.5 mg/kg, induced hypnosis in young rabbits and increased mean blood pressure to 170 +/- 14% and heart rate to 150 +/- 21% of control values. In elderly rabbits, 7.5 mg/kg DSB induced hypnosis, had no effect on blood pressure, but increased the heart rate to 130 +/- 2% of control. After ganglionic blockade with hexamethonium, 7.5 mg/kg DSB caused a decline in mean blood pressure (71 +/- 5% of control) without change in heart rate. DSB increased norepinephrine release from SH-SY5Y cells, a human neuroblastoma cell line (5.4 +/- 1.7% vs. 3.5 +/- 0.3%). DSB produced age-dependent elevation of mean blood pressure in rabbits, probably by causing release of catecholamines from the sympathetic nervous system.