Previous studies have shown that the 5-HT1A receptor ligand, lesopitron (E-4424, 2-[4-[4-(4-chloro-1-pyrazolyl)butyl]-1-piperazinyl]pyrimidine), exerts potent anxiolytic-like effects in rodents and monkeys (Costall et al., 1992, J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 262, 90). In an attempt to determine whether these effects are really mediated through the interaction of lesopitron with central 5-HT1A receptors, we investigated the agonistic and/or antagonistic nature of this interaction under in vitro and in vivo conditions in the rat. In vitro binding and autoradiographic studies with [3H]8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin ([3H]8-OH-DPAT) and [3H]lesopitron as radioligands confirmed that lesopitron binds to 5-HT1A receptors in the rat brain with a relatively high affinity (pKi = 7.35). As expected of a full agonist at postsynaptic 5-HT1A receptors, lesopitron (IC50 = 125 nM) inhibited forskolin-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity in rat hippocampal membranes to the same extent as 5-HT, and this effect was preventable by potent 5-HT1A receptor antagonists such as (-)-tertatolol, (-)-propranolol and N-tert-butyl-3,4-(2-methoxyphenyl)piperazin-1-yl-2-phenyl- propanamide ((+)-WAY 100135). As previously shown for agonists acting at the somato-dendritic 5-HT1A autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus, lesopitron inhibited the firing of serotoninergic neurons both in vitro (in brainstem slices, IC50 = 120 nM) and in vivo (in chloral hydrate-anaesthetized rats, ID50 = 35 micrograms/kg i.v.), and this effect was preventable by (-)-tertatolol. Interestingly, the inhibition of the discharge due to lesopitron lasted for only a few minutes both in vitro and in vivo whereas the anxiolytic-like properties of this drug lasted for hours after a single injection in mice (Costall et al., 1992). In addition, the doses required for the stimulation of pre- and postsynaptic 5-HT1A receptors were markedly higher than those producing significant anxiolytic-like effects in rodents (Costall et al., 1992). It is therefore unlikely that the anxiolytic-like properties of lesopitron involve its stimulatory action at central 5-HT1A receptors.