The role of serotonin (5-HT)1B receptors in the mechanism of action of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) was studied by using intracerebral in vivo microdialysis in conscious, freely moving wild-type and 5-HT1B receptor knockout (KO 5-HT1B) mice in order to compare the effects of chronic administration of paroxetine via osmotic minipumps (1 mg per kg per day for 14 days) on extracellular 5-HT levels ([5-HT]ext) in the medial prefrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus. Basal [5-HT]ext values in the medial prefrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus, approximately 20 h after removing the minipump, were not altered by chronic paroxetine treatment in both genotypes. On day 15, in the ventral hippocampus, an acute paroxetine challenge (1 mg/kg i.p.) induced a larger increase in [5-HT]ext in saline-pretreated mutant than in wild-type mice. This difference between the two genotypes in the effect of the paroxetine challenge persisted following chronic paroxetine treatment. Conversely, in the medial prefrontal cortex, the paroxetine challenge increased [5-HT]ext similarly in saline-pretreated mice of both genotypes. Such a challenge produced a further increase in cortical [5-HT]ext compared with that in saline-pretreated groups of both genotypes, but no differences were found between genotypes following chronic treatment. To avoid the interaction with raphe 5-HT1A autoreceptors, 1 micro m paroxetine was perfused locally through the dialysis probe implanted in the ventral hippocampus; similar increases in hippocampal [5-HT]ext were found in acutely or chronically treated wild-type mice. Systemic administration of the mixed 5-HT1B/1D receptor antagonist GR 127935 (4 mg/kg) in chronically treated wild-type mice potentiated the effect of a paroxetine challenge dose on [5-HT]ext in the ventral hippocampus, whereas systemic administration of the selective 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY 100635 did not. By using the zero net flux method of quantitative microdialysis in the medial prefrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus of wild-type and KO 5-HT1B mice, we found that basal [5-HT]ext and the extraction fraction of 5-HT were similar in the medial prefrontal cortex and ventral hippocampus of both genotypes, suggesting that no compensatory response to the constitutive deletion of the 5-HT1B receptor involving changes in 5-HT uptake capacity occurred in vivo. As steady-state brain concentrations of paroxetine at day 14 were similar in both genotypes, it is unlikely that differences in the effects of a paroxetine challenge on hippocampal [5-HT]ext are due to alterations of the drug's pharmacokinetic properties in mutants. These data suggest that there are differences between the ventral hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex in activation of terminal 5-HT1B autoreceptors and their role in regulating dialysate 5-HT levels. These presynaptic receptors retain their capacity to limit 5-HT release mainly in the ventral hippocampus following chronic paroxetine treatment in mice.