The effects of the 5-HT1A receptor agonists 8-OH-DPAT (0.15-2.5 mumol kg-1 subcutaneously), flesinoxan (0.6-10.0 mumol kg-1 subcutaneously) and buspirone (1.9-30.0 mumol kg-1 subcutaneously) on spontaneous motor activity in male Sprague-Dawley rats was examined in a photocell-equipped open-field arena. Following motor activity observations, the cerebral aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase inhibitor NSD-1015 (100 mg kg-1 intraperitoneally) was administered and 30 min. later the animals were decapitated for subsequent analysis of the accumulated forebrain DOPA and 5-HTP levels, as an estimate of the rate of monoamine synthesis. 8-OH-DPAT and flesinoxan produced a similar and characteristic pattern of changes of the spontaneous motor activity in normal animals i.e. a moderate decrease in locomotor activity, a marked suppression of rearing and an increase in the relative amount of forward locomotion and of activity in the periphery of the open-field arena. This behavioural profile was closely related to a decrease in forebrain 5-HTP accumulation, indicating 5-HT receptor stimulation. In agreement with these observations buspirone also produced an increase in peripheral activity and a suppression of rearing. In contrast to effects by 8-OH-DPAT and flesinoxan, however, buspirone produced a further reduction of locomotor activity and reduced the forward locomotion. This difference in behavioural profile between buspirone and the other two compounds is probably explained by its DA receptor blocking properties, as indicated by an increased DOPA accumulation in the neostriatum. At least partially, 8-OH-DPAT, flesinoxan and buspirone, all antagonized reserpine-induced (5 mg kg-1 subcutaneously--16 hr) suppression of locomotor activity. This stimulation of locomotor activity in reserpine-treated rats is in all probability related to 5-HT1A receptor stimulation since concomitant DA D2 receptor blockade, in the case of buspirone, did not markedly affect this behavioural response.