The α 1 - and α 2 -adrenoreceptor types are defined in terms of the selective binding of radioligands and their displacement from membrane preparations by a range of agonists and antagonists. Their distribution is described in brain, kidney, heart, and peripheral blood vessels. A group of centrally acting clonidine-like drugs are classified in terms of their selectivity for the α 2 -adrenoreceptors, and it is suggested that differences between α-adrenoreceptors in various tissues may allow development of highly selective α 2 -adrenoreceptor agonists for specific tissue sites such as the juxtaglomerular cells and brainstem nuclei controlling blood pressure. It is further suggested that the aim of treatment with such compounds is to modulate adrenergic activity while retaining normal homeostatic mechanisms. For this purpose, competitive agonists and antagonists are preferable to compounds which bind irreversibly to the receptor.