Adrenergic regulation of growth hormone (GH) release in the goldfish was examined in vitro using dispersed goldfish pituitary cells under column perifusion. Norepinephrine and epinephrine suppressed basal GH release from goldfish pituitary cells in a reversible and dose-dependent manner. At high doses, a transient rebound of GH release was observed after termination of norepinephrine and epinephrine treatment. In this study, the dose-dependence of adrenergic inhibition on basal GH release was mimicked by the alpha2 agonists clonidine and UK14304. Basal GH secretion, however, was not affected by the beta agonist isoproterenol and alpha1 agonist methoxamine. In addition, the inhibitory actions of norepinephrine and clonidine on basal GH release were blocked by the alpha2 antagonists yohimbine and RX821002. The beta antagonist propranolol and alpha1 antagonists prasozin and benoxathian were not effective in this respect. Salmon gonadotropin-releasing hormone (sGnRH) and dopamine, two known GH-releasing factors in fish, stimulated GH release from goldfish pituitary cells and their GH-releasing actions were inhibited by simultaneous treatment with norepinephrine. Furthermore, the GH rebound after norepinephrine treatment was significantly enhanced by prior exposure to sGnRH and this effect was not observed with dopamine treatment. These results, taken together, suggest that in the goldfish adrenergic input at the pituitary level inhibit basal GH release through activation of alpha2 adrenoreceptors. This alpha2 inhibitory influence may interact with dopaminergic and GnRH input to regulate GH secretion from goldfish pituitary cells. The 'post-inhibition' GH rebound after NE treatment and its sensitivity to sGnRH potentiation may also represent a novel mechanism for GH regulation in fish.