Cerebral 5-HT depletion has been shown to facilitate elicitation of various kinds of aggressive behavior in rats. The question as to whether both offensive and defensive aggressive reactions are affected to the same extent was examined in a resident-intruder paradigm where an ethological analysis of the two animals allows an evaluation of non-social activities as well as agonistic interactions, including both offense and defense. PCPA (375 mg/kg IP) was administered either to the resident or the intruder and the interactions with an untreated conspecific were recorded in the resident's home cage for an 8 min period three days after injection when 5-HT was maximally reduced. PCPA treatment increased the occurrence of social approach and offensive postures in resident rats, whereas their untreated partners displayed more defensive reactions. When intruders were injected, only non-significant increases in approach and offense were observed. In no case did PCPA affect occurrence of defensive postures in the injected animals. These results confirm that serotonin plays a role in controlling offensive aggression but not defensive behavior.