Effects of clonidine and tizanidine, which have antinociceptive and alpha 2-agonistic actions, were studied on the release of substance P from slices of spinal cord from the rat. Veratridine-evoked depolarization induced a 2-3-fold increase in the release of substance P from the slices of spinal cord. Exposure of the cord tissue to 10 microM clonidine and tizanidine significantly reduced the release of substance P. The inhibitory effects of clonidine and tizanidine were attenuated by pre-exposure of the tissue to 10 microM piperoxane, which has alpha 2-antagonistic activity and the inhibitory effect of clonidine was attenuated by 10 microM yohimbine. Moreover, the inhibitory effects of clonidine and tizanidine were also blocked by a small dose of prazosin, an antagonist for alpha 1- and alpha 2B-receptors. None of the antagonists had any effect on release of substance P, when given alone. These results suggest that alpha 2B-adrenoceptors are involved in the inhibitory effects of clonidine and tizanidine on the release of substance P.