Sodium o-iodobenzoate (OISB) was given intravenously to 15 dogs to test the in vivo effect of this drug on the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve. Administration of a single dose of 500 mg/kg was followed by an average increase in P50 (PO2 at 50% oxyhemoglobin saturation) of 3.6 mmHg from 26.8 +/- 0.5 to 30.4 +/- 1.8 mmHg (corrected to pH 7.4). This elevation was sustained for 7 days. During intravenous infusions of 200 mg/kg every other day for 3 wk, there was a sustained increase in P50 of 2.6 mmHg from 27.8 +/- 1.1 to 30.4 +/- 0.9 mmHg. All dogs survived the experiment and no ill effects of the drug were noted. An increase in serum lactate and pyruvate occurred in all animals following acute or chronic exposure to the drug. There was no significant change in whole blood pH, 2,3-diphosphoglycerate concentrations, intracellular pH, or serum total phosphate. Multiple infusions of sodium cyanate (50 mg/kg per day) reduced P50 by an average of 12.2 +/- 0.3 mmHg. A subsequent single infusion of OISB (500 mg/kg) failed to increase P50. Our preliminary data indicate that pharmacological manipulation of hemoglobin O2 affinity is possible with organic compounds unrelated to erythrocyte metabolism.