We investigated the effects of the novel 5-HT1A receptor agonist BAY x 3702 on the serotonergic function in rat brain using single unit recordings in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DR) of anesthetized rats and in vivo microdialysis in freely moving rats. The administration of BAY x 3702 (0.25-4 microg/kg i.v.) suppressed the firing activity of 5-HT neurones. This effect was antagonized by a low dose of the selective 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY 100635 (5 microg/kg i.v.). In microdialysis experiments, BAY x 3702 (10-100 microg/ kg s.c.) reduced dose-dependently the 5-HT output in the dorsal and median raphe (MnR) nucleus, dorsal hippocampus (DHPC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) in a regionally selective manner. Maximal effects were observed in the MnR and mPFC, with reductions to approximately 15% of baseline at a dose of 0.1 mg/kg s.c. The decrease in 5-HT output produced in the DR and DHPC was more moderate, to 45% of baseline at 0.1 mg/kg s.c. BAY x 3702. WAY 100635 (0.3 mg/kg s.c.) completely antagonized the effect of BAY x 3702 (30 microg/kg s.c.). The application of BAY x 3702 in the DR (1-100 microM) reduced the local 5-HT output to 25% of baseline. In rats implanted with two dialysis probes (in DR and mPFC) the application of BAY x 3702 (30 microM) in the DR reduced the 5-HT output in the DR and that in mPFC. These effects were significantly antagonized by the co-perfusion of WAY 100635 (100 microM) in the DR. Overall, these results indicate that the systemic administration of BAY x 3702 reduces the 5-HT release with high potency through the activation of midbrain 5-HT1A receptors.