The effect of electroacupuncture (EA) on the reflex cardiovascular response induced by mechanical distension of the stomach was studied in ventilated male Sprague-Dawley rats anesthetized by ketamine and alpha-chloralose. Repeated balloon inflation of the stomach to produce 20 mmHg tension on the gastric wall induced a consistent rise in mean arterial pressure, while heart rate (372 +/- 22 beats/min) was unchanged. This response was reversed by transection of the splanchnic nerves. Bilateral application of EA (1-2 mA, 2 Hz) at Neiguan-Jianshi acupoints (pericardial meridian, Pe 5-6) over the median nerve for 30 min significantly decreased the pressor response from 33 +/- 6 to 18 +/- 4 mmHg (n = 7, P < 0.05). This effect began after 10 min of EA and continued for 40 min after termination of EA. EA at Zusanli-Shangquxu acupoints (stomach meridian, St 36-37) over the deep peroneal nerve similarly inhibited the pressor response. The effect lasted for 10 min after EA was stopped (n = 6, P < 0.05), while EA at Guangming-Xuanzhong acupoints (gallbladder meridian, GB 37-39) over the superficial peroneal nerve did not inhibit the pressor response. Naloxone injected intravenously (n = 6) immediately after termination of EA or administered by microinjection into the rostral ventrolateral medulla (rVLM) 25 min after initiation of EA (n = 6) reversed the inhibition by EA, suggesting an opiate mechanism, including the rVLM, was involved.