The effects of euhydration (Eh) and light (Dh1) and moderate (Dh2) dehydrations on plasma prolactin (PRL) levels were studied in 5 young male volunteers at rest and during exercise to exhaustion (50% of VO2max) in a warm environment (Tdb = 35 degrees C, rh = 20-30%). Light and moderate dehydrations (loss of 1.1 and 1.8% body respectively) were obtained before exercise by controlled hyperthermia. Compared to Eh, time for exhaustion was reduced in Dh1 and Dh2 (p less than 0.01) and rectal temperature (Tre) rose faster in Dh2 (p less than 0.05). Both venous plasma PRL and norepinephrine (NE) increased during exercise at any hydration level (p less than 0.05). Plasma PRL reached higher values after 40 and 60 min in Dh2 and Dh1 (p less than 0.05). Plasma NE values were higher in Dh2 at rest and at the 40th min during exercise (p less than 0.05). Plasma PRL was linearly correlated to Tre and plasma NE (p less than 0.001) but unrelated to plasma volume variation and osmolality. Our results provide further evidence for the major effect of body temperature in exercise-induced PRL changes. Moreover, the plasma PRL-NE relationship suggests that these changes may result from central noradrenergic activation.