There is evidence that changes of the autonomic control of the heart are among the potential mechanisms responsible for pollution-related cardiac mortality. The objective of this work is to assess the acute effects of urban particulate matter of 2.5 microm (PM(2.5)) particles on heart rate (HR) and HR variability. Forty-seven healthy Wistar rats were anesthetized, submitted to tracheal intubation, and instilled with 1 mL of four different solutions: saline, blank filter, and 50 or 100 microg of PM(2.5). PM(2.5) was collected in glass fiber filters using a high-volume sampler. Electrodes for obtaining electrocardiograms were implanted subcutaneously in a Lead II configuration. HR and the standard deviation of the intervals between normal beats (SDNN) were assessed immediately before and 30 and 60 min after instillation. HR decreased significantly (P<0.001) with time, but no significant effect of treatment or interaction between time and treatment was observed. In contrast, there was a significant SDNN interaction between time and treatment (P=0.025). The SDNN decreased 60 min after instillation with a PM(2.5) of 50 and 100 microg. In conclusion, the injection of an aqueous suspension of PM(2.5) induced a reduction of SDNN in healthy rats. The effect was observed 1h after instillation and in a concentration of <100 microg.