Intracellular recordings were obtained from rat jaw-closing motoneurons (JCMNs) in slice preparations to investigate the effects of serotonin (5-HT) on the postspike medium-duration afterhyperpolarization (mAHP) and an involvement of protein kinases in the effects. Application of 50 microM 5-HT caused membrane depolarization and increased input resistance in the most cells without affecting the mAHP, whereas not only membrane depolarization and an increase in input resistance, but also the suppression of the mAHP amplitude was induced by higher dose of 5-HT (100 or 200 microM). On the other hand, when the mAHP amplitude was increased by raising [Ca(2+)](o) from 2 to 6 mM, 5-HT-induced attenuation of the mAHP amplitude was enhanced, and even 50 microM 5-HT reduced the mAHP amplitude. This 5-HT-induced suppression of the mAHP could be mimicked by application of membrane-permeable cAMP analogue 8-Bromo-cAMP, potentiated by the cAMP-specific phosphodiesterase inhibitor Ro 20-1724 and antagonized by protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor H89. The enhancement of the mAHP attenuation induced by 50 microM 5-HT under raised [Ca(2+)](o) was blocked by a protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor chelerythrine, suggesting an involvement of PKC in this enhancement. On the other hand, the attenuation of the mAHP induced by PKC activator phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate was blocked almost completely by H89, suggesting that the PKC action on the mAHP requires PKA activation. Neither 5-HT(1A) antagonist NAN-190 or 5-HT(4) antagonist SB 203186 blocked 5-HT-induced attenuation of the mAHP. We conclude that 5-HT induces dose-dependent attenuation of the mAHP amplitude through cAMP-dependent activation of PKA and that PKC-dependent PKA activation is also likely to be involved in the enhancement of 5-HT-induced attenuation of the mAHP under raised [Ca(2+)](o). Because the slope of the linear relationship between firing frequency and injected current was increased only when the mAHP amplitude was decreased by 5-HT, it is suggested that the relation between incoming synaptic inputs and firing output in JCMNs varies according to serotonergic effects on JCMNs and calcium-dependent modulation of its effects.