The alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonists, clonidine, lofexidine and guanabenz, blocked stress- but not cocaine-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking at doses that suppressed footshock-induced release of noradrenaline in prefrontal cortex and amygdala. Rats were trained to self-administer cocaine (0.5 mg/kg/infusion, i.v; 10-12 days) and, after a drug-free period (7-13 days), were returned to the self-administration chambers for daily extinction and reinstatement test sessions. Both intermittent footshock (15 min, 0.6 mA) and cocaine priming (20 mg/kg, i.p.) reinstated extinguished drug seeking. Pretreatment with either clonidine (20, or 40 microg/kg, i.p.) or lofexidine (50, 100, 150, or 200 microg/kg, i.p.) attenuated footshock- but not cocaine-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking. Guanabenz (640 microg/kg, i.p.), an alpha-2 agonist with low affinity for imidazoline type-1 receptors, also attenuated footshock- but not cocaine-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking. The results point to an important role for NE systems in the effects of footshock on relapse to cocaine seeking.