The aim of this study was to determine how massage-like stroking of the abdomen in rats influences arterial blood pressure. The participation of oxytocinergic mechanisms in this effect was also investigated. The ventral and/or lateral sides of the abdomen were stroked at a speed of 20 cm/s with a frequency of 0.017-0.67 Hz in pentobarbital anesthetized, artificially ventilated rats. Arterial blood pressure was recorded with a pressure transducer via a catheter in the carotid artery. Stroking of the ventral, or both ventral and lateral sides of the abdomen for 1 min with a frequency of 0.67 Hz caused a marked decrease in arterial blood pressure (approx. 50 mmHg). After cessation of the stimulation blood pressure returned to the control level within 1 min. The maximum decrease in blood pressure was achieved at frequencies of 0.083 Hz or more. Stroking only the lateral sides of the abdomen elicited a significantly smaller decrease in blood pressure (approx. 30 mmHg decrease) than stroking the ventral side. The decrease in blood pressure caused by stroking was not altered by s.c. administration of an oxytocin antagonist (1-deamino-2-D-Tyr-(Oet)-4-Thr-8-Orn-oxytocin, 1 mg/kg) directed against the uterine receptor. In contrast, the administration of 0.1 mg/kg of oxytocin diminished the effect, which was antagonized by a simultaneous injection of the oxytocin antagonist. These results indicate that the massage-like stroking of the abdomen decreases blood pressure in anesthetized rats. This effect does not involve intrinsic oxytocinergic transmission. However, since exogenously applied oxytocin was found to diminish the effect of stroking, oxytocin may exert an inhibitory modulatory effect on this reflex arc.