Visualization of the tyraminergic innervation of the oviducts was demonstrated by immunohistochemistry, and the presence of tyramine was confirmed using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to electrochemical detection. Oviducts incubated in high-potassium saline released tyramine in a calcium-dependent manner. Stimulation of the oviducal nerves also resulted in tyramine release, suggesting that tyramine might function as a neurotransmitter/neuromodulator at the locust oviducts. Tyramine decreased the basal tension, and also attenuated proctolin-induced contractions in a dose-dependent manner over a range of doses between 10(-7) and 10(-4) M. Low concentrations of tyramine attenuated forskolin-stimulated cyclic AMP levels in a dose-dependent manner. This effect was not blocked by yohimbine. High concentrations of tyramine increased basal cyclic AMP levels of locust oviducts in a dose-dependent manner; however, the increases in cyclic AMP were only evident at the highest concentrations tested, 5 x 10(-5) and 10(-4) M tyramine. The tyramine-induced increase in cyclic AMP shared a similar pharmacological profile with the octopamine-induced increase in cyclic AMP. Tyramine increased the amplitude of excitatory junction potentials at low concentrations while hyperpolarizing the membrane potential by 2-5 mV. A further increase in the amplitude of the excitatory junction potentials and the occurrence of an active response was seen upon washing tyramine from the preparation. These results suggest that tyramine can activate at least three different endogenous receptors on the locust oviducts a putative tyramine receptor at low concentrations, a different tyramine receptor to inhibit muscle contraction, and an octopamine receptor at high concentrations.