Recent immunohistochemical evidence from the rat, indicating that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-containing fibres of central nervous origin project to the pars intermedia of the pituitary1,2, prompts inquiry into the function of this innervation. There is electrophysiological evidence that GABA acts directly on melanotrophs isolated from rat, through bicuculline-blockable receptors, to increase Cl- conductance and thereby drive the membrane potential towards the Cl- equilibrium potential in these cells, resulting in depolarization at rest or reduction of the depolarization caused by excess K+ (ref. 3). As voltage-dependent Ca channels can participate in the regulation of secretion in these cells4, we have now examined the effect of GABA on hormone output and find that it first stimulates and then inhibits spontaneous secretion of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) and inhibits K+-evoked secretion. Moreover, our pharmacological evidence suggests that similar receptors are involved in the secretory and the electrophysiological responses. A function of the GABAergic innervation may therefore be to regulate hormone output by acting directly on the melanotrophs, and this regulation may be affected by the changes in electrical properties induced by GABA.