We have investigated the effects of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'ecstasy'), i.v., on diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in pithed and pentobarbitone anaesthetized rats. In pithed rats, the non-selective 5-HT receptor antagonist methiothepin (0.1 mg kg(-1)) and the alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonists methoxyidazoxan and yohimbine (1 mg kg(-1)) showed significant alpha1-adrenoceptor antagonist potency, but methiothepin did not show alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonist potency. MDMA (1 and 5 mg kg(-1)) produced pressor responses which were significantly reduced by the alpha(1)-adrenoceptor antagonist prazosin (0.1 mg kg(-1)), yohimbine (1 mg kg(-1)) or methiothepin (0.1 mg kg(-1)), but not by the 5-HT2 receptor antagonist ritanserin (1 mg kg(-1)). In anaesthetized rats, antagonists revealed two phases with three components to the effects of MDMA (5 mg kg(-1)) on DBP: an initial pressor response, a later pressor component at 1 min, the sustained depressor response. Methoxyidazoxan, methiothepin or the combination ritanserin/prazosin significantly reduced the initial pressor response, although neither of the latter compounds alone had any effect. The pressor response to MDMA (5 mg kg(-1)) at 1 min was converted to a depressor response by prazosin and to a lesser extent methiothepin and methoxyidazoxan. The depressor response to MDMA (5 mg kg(-1)) was significantly reduced by methoxyidazoxan (0.1 mg kg(-1)), and by the noradrenaline re-uptake blocker cocaine 10 mg kg(-1) but not 1 mg kg(-1). However, the most marked reduction in the depressor response was produced by the combination of methoxyidazoxan and cocaine. It is concluded that the initial pressor response to MDMA (5 mg kg(-1)) in anaesthetized rats involves alpha2- and possibly alpha1-adrenoceptors and 5-HT2 receptors, the pressor component at 1 min is largely alpha1-adrenoceptor mediated, and the sustained depressor response involves alpha2-adrenoceptors.