In the mouse forced swimming test (FST) pretreatment with a subactive dose of lithium (1 mEq/kg), given IP 45 min before the test, facilitated the antidepressant activity of iprindole, fluoxetine, and moclobemide (given IP 30 min before the test). These antidepressants (ADS) were not active alone in the FST in this study. Moreover, when subactive lithium was combined with a wide range of ADS, each given at subactive doses, those ADS with serotoninergic properties (e.g. imipramine, citalopram, paroxetine, fluoxetine, trazodone, mianserin, and moclobemide) significantly reduced immobility times. ADS acting primarily on noradrenaline (NA) or dopamine (DA) systems (desipramine, maprotiline, viloxazine, and bupropion) did not significantly decrease immobility when given in combination with lithium. This was also the case for RO 16 6491 [a reversible, B specific monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)], nialamide, and pargyline (both irreversible, mixed MAOIs). The anti-immobility effect of iprindole in combination with lithium suggests either a direct or indirect action on the serotonin (5HT) system by this ADS whose mechanism of action remains obscure. These results, using an animal behavioral model of depression and combining our present knowledge of the acute action of various ADS, support the hypothesis that the potentiation by lithium of ADS is via direct 5HT mechanisms, indirectly via a NA/5HT link, and/or by second messenger systems. Lithium may also facilitate the expression of antidepressant activity of ADS not active by themselves in the FST.