The selective serotonin uptake inhibitor fluoxetine (10 mg/kg i.p.) increased tissue levels of the norepinephrine metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylethylene glycol sulfate (MHPG-SO4) in rat hypothalamus, indicating an increased release of norepinephrine. Microdialysis studies in conscious rats showed that fluoxetine (10 mg/kg i.p.) increased extracellular concentrations of norepinephrine as well as serotonin in the hypothalamus. In contrast, desipramine (10 mg/kg i.p.) increased extracellular concentration of norepinephrine but not serotonin in the hypothalamus. Consistent with its mechanism of being a selective serotonin uptake inhibitor, local perfusion of fluoxetine (10 microM) caused a 7-fold increase in hypothalamic extracellular serotonin and a small non-significant increase in extracellular norepinephrine. The subsequent systemic injection of fluoxetine (10 mg/kg s.c.) after local perfusion caused a 3-fold increase in extracellular norepinephrine, indicating that fluoxetine's action leading to an increase in extracellular norepinephrine was not occurring in the terminal areas of the hypothalamus but elsewhere in the brain, possibly cell bodies in the locus coeruleus.