Mivazerol is a new and selective alpha 2-adrenoceptor agonist which has demonstrated anti-ischemic effects, both in animals and in patients with myocardial ischemia. In the present study, mivazerol was evaluated for its ability to inhibit the release of catecholamines and serotonin (5-HT) in the hippocampus of freely moving rats, and also was compared to clonidine. In vivo microdialysis in combination with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was employed. Intravenous administration of mivazerol (8.0 micrograms/kg) had no effect on basal outflow of norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). In contrast, clonidine (8.5 micrograms/kg, i.v.) attenuated the basal release of DOPAC, which has been proposed to reflect NE biosynthesis, suggesting that clonidine has an inhibitory effect on NE synthesis. In addition, both mivazerol and clonidine decreased the spontaneous release of 5-HT, which provided further evidence that alpha 2-adrenoceptors in the hippocampus modulate 5-HT. Sixty-min immobilization stress significantly increased the release of NE (177 +/- 28%), DA (209 +/- 46%) and DOPAC (337 +/- 72%). Mivazerol (2.5, 8.0 and 25 micrograms/kg, i.v.) completely prevented the immobilization stress-induced enhancement of NE, DA and DOPAC, which was equi-effective to clonidine at a dose of 8.5 micrograms/kg, i.v. These findings demonstrate that mivazerol has a profound modulatory effect on stress-induced neurotransmitter release in the hippocampus, at dose levels reported to protect against myocardial ischemia.