Neuropeptide Y (30-1000 nmol/l) significantly inhibited the fractional stimulation-induced outflow of radioactivity from mouse atria preincubated with [3H]-noradrenaline. The inhibitory effect of neuropeptide Y was observed at all frequencies tested (2, 5 and 10 Hz) as well as after alpha-adrenoceptor blockade with phentolamine (1 mumol/l). A combination of 8-bromo adenosine cyclic-3'-5'-monophosphate (90 or 270 mumol/l) with the phosphodiesterase inhibitor 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (100 mumol/l) was used to saturate maximally the adenylate cyclase system and these drug combinations significantly enhanced the stimulation-induced outflow of radioactivity. However, neuropeptide Y inhibited the stimulation-induced outflow in the presence of these drugs, suggesting that the inhibitory effect of neuropeptide Y was not due to decreasing endogenous cyclic AMP formation. Finally, atria from mice treated with pertussis toxin were used. In this case, the inhibitory effect of neuropeptide Y on the stimulation-induced outflow of radioactivity was still observed suggesting that inhibitory prejunctional neuropeptide Y receptors are not coupled to a pertussis toxin-susceptible G protein.