Melatonin exerts its biological role acting via G protein-coupled membrane receptors - MT1 and MT2, as well as through cytoplasmic and/or nuclear receptors. Melatonin has previously been shown to change vasopressin (AVP) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion dependently on its concentration. To determine whether the response of vasopressinergic neurones to different concentrations of melatonin is mediated through the membrane MT1 and/or MT2 receptors, the influence of luzindole - an antagonist of both MT1 and MT2 receptors, and 4-phenyl-2-propionamidotetralin (4-P-PDOT) - a selective MT2 receptor antagonist, on melatonin-dependent AVP release from the rat hypothalamo-neurohypophysial (H-NH) system was studied in vitro (melatonin at the concentrations of 10(-9), 10(-7) and 10(-3) M) and in vivo (melatonin at the concentrations of 10(-9) and 10(-7) M). Moreover, the second goal of this study was to find out whether melatonin receptors MT1 and/or MT2 are involved in the regulation of ACTH and corticosterone secretion into the blood. We have demonstrated that melatonin, at the concentrations of 10(-9) and 10(-7) M, significantly inhibited AVP secretion from isolated rat H-NH explants when antagonists solvent (i.e. 0.1% DMSO) was present in the medium. Neither luzindole, nor 4-P-PDOT, applied without melatonin, did influence AVP release in vitro. Luzindole applied together with melatonin (10(-7) M and 10(-9) M) significantly suppressed melatonin-dependent effect, while 4-PPDOT did not eliminate the inhibitory influence of 10(-7) M and 10(-9) M melatonin on AVP secretion from isolated rat H-NH explants. Melatonin at a concentration of 10(-3) M significantly increased AVP release when the H-NH explants were incubated in the medium containing luzindole or 4-P-PDOT. Under present experimental in vivo conditions, infused intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.) melatonin, at a concentration close to its physiological level in the blood, significantly diminished AVP secretion into the blood, however, at higher concentration (10(-7) M) it remained inactive in this process. Moreover, melatonin at both concentrations of 10(-9) M and 10(-7) M, was able to inhibit AVP secretion into the blood (and increase its neurohypophysial content) when animals were previously i.c.v. injected with 4-P-PDOT, but not with luzindole. Blood plasma concentration of ACTH was diminished significantly by 10(-7) M melatonin in DMSO-infused, but not in luzindole- or 4-P-PDOT-injected rats, however, it remained inactive in modifying the corticosterone blood plasma concentrations in any of the studied subgroups. The present study demonstrates that subtype MT1 membrane receptor may contribute to the inhibitory effect of physiological concentration of melatonin on functional regulation of vasopressinergic neurones in the rat. However, for the stimulatory effect of pharmacological dose of the hormone on AVP secretion in vitro, mechanisms different from membrane MT1/MT2 receptors are involved. The present experiment do not determines whether MT1 and/or MT2 receptors affect the function of the rat pituitary-adrenal cortex axis.