The Mouse Defense Test Battery (MDTB) has been designed to assess defensive reactions in Swiss-Webster mice to situations associated with a natural predator, the rat. Primary measures taken before, during and after predator confrontation comprise escape attempts, predator assessment, defensive attack and flight. Previous reports from this laboratory have shown that the panic-promoting drug yohimbine potentiated flight behavior, while long-term treatment with the panicolytic agent alprazolam reduced this response. In order to evaluate further the possibility that the MDTB may represent an effective animal model of panic attacks, the present study investigated the behavioral effect of imipramine and fluoxetine, two serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) known to alleviate panic symptoms when given on a repeated basis. Both drugs were administered acutely and chronically (one daily IP injection for 21 days) at 5, 10 and 15 mg/kg. Our results showed that a single dose of imipramine or fluoxetine strongly potentiated flight reactions in response to an approaching predator and increased defensive attack toward the rat. This was in contrast to chronic treatment with each drug which dramatically decreased flight responses and defensive attack behaviors. In addition, long-term administration with both SRIs produced a reliable attenuation of predator assessment activities. Taken together, these findings suggest an acute anxiogenic-like effect of imipramine and fluoxetine followed by a fear/anxiety reducing effect after repeated administrations. These results support clinical observations revealing an acute anxiogenic effect of SRIs followed by an anxiolytic and/or panicolytic effect after chronic use, and support previous results suggesting that the MDTB may be useful for the investigation of panic-modulating agents.