The selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) citalopram decreases the synthesis of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) in the mouse brain in vivo. The underlying mechanism was studied by recording the accumulation of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in hypothalamus and hippocampus after inhibition of the aromatic amino acid decarboxylase activity with m-hydroxybenzylhydrazine (NSD 1015). Depletion of 5-HT with reserpine markedly reduced the citalopram-induced decrease of 5-HTP but not that evoked by the 5-HT1A receptor agonist 8-OH-DPAT, which indicates that the presence of endogenous 5-HT is necessary for full effect of citalopram. In contrast to the almost complete antagonism of the decrease in 5-HT synthesis induced by 8-OH-DPAT, the 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY-100,635 only slightly affected the citalopram-evoked decrease in 5-HT synthesis. Likewise, the 5-HT1B receptor antagonists NAS-181 and GR127935 only slightly antagonised the citalopram effect although they strongly inhibited the decrease in 5-HT synthesis induced by the 5-HT1B receptor agonist anpirtoline. Combined treatment with 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptor antagonists did not produce any additive antagonistic effect on the citalopram-induced decrease in 5-HT synthesis. The 5-HT2A/2C receptor antagonist ketanserin, the 5-HT3 receptor antagonist ondansetron and the 5-HT4 receptor antagonist RS-39604 had no effect on the citalopram-induced decrease in 5-HT synthesis. The same was found for several other non-selective 5-HT receptor antagonists, e.g. cyproheptadine, dihydroergotamine, methiothepin, methysergide, metergoline and mianserin. It is concluded that the citalopram-induced decrease in 5-HT synthesis differs in sensitivity from that mediated by 5-HT1A or 5-HT1B receptor agonists and citalopram also seems to require endogenous 5-HT for its full effect.