Deficiencies in brain serotonergic neurotransmission, which is in part associated with the alteration of brain serotonin (5-HT) receptors, have been proposed as part of a neurochemical imbalance in affective disorders, including depression. The drugs used for the treatment of these disorders generally act through and/or on the serotonergic system. Different animal models of depression have provided researchers with tools to obtain a better understanding of drug actions and possibilities to obtain insight into the neurochemical bases of these disorders. The measurements of the 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(1B) receptor densities in a rat model of depression, Flinders sensitive line (FSL) rats, and comparisons with Sprague-Dawley (SPD) and Flinders resistant line (FRL) rats, are reported here. The receptor sites were quantified by autoradiography in more than 25 distinct brain regions known to have relatively large densities of respective sites. Some brain regions (e.g., dental gyrus, septal nucleus) were divided into several parts, according to previously known subdivisions, because of a substantial heterogeneity of these receptors. The densities in the FSL rats ("depressed" rats) were compared statistically to those in the SPD rats. In addition, comparisons were made to the densities in the FRL rats (rats not showing depressive symptoms). Comparisons were performed with the SPD and FRL rats because both of these strains have been used as control animals in studies of FSL rats. The results show that the densities of 5-HT(1A) receptors are not significantly different between the FSL and SPD rats, but they are significantly different from the FRL rats. 5-HT(1A) receptor density is significantly higher in the FRL rats than the SPD rats. The 5-HT(1B) receptors were significantly greater in the FSL rats than in either the SPD or FRL rats. In addition, the FRL rats have 5-HT(1B) receptor densities significantly lower in many brain regions than the SPD rats. The data presented here, in addition to previously reported differences in regional synthesis between these strains and the effect of acute citalopram on synthesis, suggest that SPD rats are likely a more appropriate control than FRL rats, when studies of FSL rats are performed with drugs acting directly or indirectly on, or through, the brain serotonergic system. However, comparisons, particularly of neurochemical and/or biological parameters in FRL rats, may reveal new insight into the alterations of 5-HT neurotransmission in this animal model of depression and possibly human depression, as well as the elevation of symptoms with treatments. The data also suggest that there could be a different fraction of 5-HT(1A) receptors in high and low affinity states in these strains, as well as the possibility of different intracellular signalling.