Female Wistar rats were treated with the serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine (10 mg/kg/i.p/day), during pregnancy and breast-feeding, for the study of the corresponding newborn rats. At the end of the preweaning period, the 30-day old litters had their vas deferens removed for testing peripheral sympathetic reactivity, through the following experiments in vitro: (a) concentration-contraction curves for serotonin and for the adrenergic agonists noradrenaline, phenylephrine, clonidine and dopamine or for the indirect agonist tyramine (b) contractions induced by electric field stimulation, as an indicator of sympathetic neurotransmission (c) release of endogenous noradrenaline, measured by real-time determinations on HPLC (d) Ca(+2) time-contraction curves, to check for changes on Ca(+2) translocation. Our results showed that the affinity (pD(2)) for serotonin was strikingly decreased by about 1.5 log units. The pD(2) for adrenergic agonists was decreased by about 0.5 log units, except for dopamine and clonidine. The maximum effects and intrinsic activity were decreased only for dopamine. On the other hand, the response to Ca(+2) and the release of noradrenaline from nerve terminals were not modified. In additional experiments, the mother's body weights were measured, showing a decrease during gestation and a recovery during lactation while the offspring's weights were lower than controls. It is concluded that, besides the alterations on body weights, changes on noradrenergic and serotonergic mechanisms were observed and persisted in the newborn, at least one month after parturition.