Evidence for the presence of a serotonin1A (5-HT1A) receptor subtype in the salmonid fish brain has recently been presented. In the present study the potent 5-HT1A receptor agonist, 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)-tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) was tested for its effect on plasma cortisol concentrations in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Blood was sampled and 8-OH-DPAT administered through a catheter in the dorsal aorta. Thirty minutes after the injection of 40 microg of 8-OH-DPAT/kg, plasma cortisol levels had increased from 12 to 149 ng/ml, whereupon they fell, reaching baseline levels after 4 h. The effect of 1-40 microg 8-OH-DPAT/kg on plasma cortisol concentrations was dose-dependent. The results lends further support to the hypothesis that the brain serotonergic system plays a key role in integrating autonomic, behavioral and neuroendocrine stress-responses in fish as well as mammals, suggesting that not only the structural and biochemical organization, but also the function of the serotonergic system has been conserved during vertebrate evolution.