1. To elucidate the role of central imidazoline receptors in the genesis of adrenaline-induced arrhythmias under halothane anaesthesia, we investigated the effects of rilmenidine, a selective agonist at imidazoline receptors, on this type of arrhythmia in dogs. Rilmenidine (1, 3, 10 micrograms kg-1, i.v.) did not affect basal haemodynamic parameters (heart rate and blood pressure), but dose-dependently inhibited adrenaline-induced arrhythmias under halothane anaesthesia. 2. Although, rilmenidine has a weak affinity for alpha(2)-adrenoceptors, pretreatment with idazoxan (10 micrograms kg-1, intracisternally i.c.), an imidazoline receptor antagonist which has also alpha(2)-adrenoceptor blocking potency, blocked the antiarrhythmic effect of rilmenidine (10 micrograms kg-1, i.v.). In contrast, pretreatment with rauwolscine (20 micrograms kg-1, i.c.), a classical alpha(2)-adrenoceptor antagonist with little affinity for imidazoline receptors, did not affect the effect of rilmenidine (10 micrograms kg-1, i.v.). Furthermore, bilateral vagotomy completely blocked the antiarrhythmic action of rilmenidine (10 micrograms kg-1, i.v.). 3. It is suggested that the antiarrhythmic action of rilmenidine is due to the activation of central imidazoline receptors and that vagal tone is critical for this action of rilmenidine.