Fimbria-fornix lesions disrupt important parts of serotonergic and noradrenergic hippocampal afferents and elicit sprouting of sympathetic fibers from the superior cervical ganglion. Since 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) release in the hippocampus is modulated by 5-HT1B auto- and alpha2-heteroreceptors, we investigated whether such lesions may alter these presynaptic mechanisms. Hippocampal slices of sham-operated (SHAM) and fimbria-fornix-lesioned (LES) rats (14 months after surgery) were preincubated with [3H]5-HT, superfused continuously, and stimulated electrically using two stimulation conditions: either (a) 360 pulses 3 Hz, or (b) 20 pulses 100 Hz (2 ms, 28 mA, 4 V/chamber). The amount of [3H]5-HT taken up by slices from LES rats was significantly reduced, whereas the evoked 5-HT release (in percent of tissue-3H) was unchanged compared to that of SHAM rats. The 5-HT1B agonist CP 93,129 or the alpha2-agonist UK 14,304 reduced the evoked 5-HT release more potently in slices from LES rats, but only using stimulation condition (a), which permits inhibition by endogenously released transmitters. In LES rats, the facilitatory effect of the 5-HT antagonist metitepine was weaker, whereas that of the alpha2-antagonist idazoxane was more pronounced than in SHAM rats. In LES rats, hippocampal 5-HT content was reduced to about 45% of SHAM levels, whereas that of noradrenaline was increased by about 30% (high-performance liquid chromatography). We conclude: (1) despite LES-induced changes in tissue levels of endogenous ligands, there is no down- or upregulation of 5-HT1B-autoreceptors or alpha2-heteroreceptors on serotonergic neurons in the denervated rat hippocampus. (2) The reduced endogenous autoinhibition (by 5-HT) seems to be compensated for by an increased heteroinhibition (by noradrenaline).