The serotonergic dorsal raphe nucleus is innervated by corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and expresses CRF receptors, suggesting that endogenous CRF impacts on this system. The present study characterized interactions between CRF and the dorsal raphe serotonin (5-HT) system. The effects of intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.) administered CRF on microdialysate concentrations of 5-HT in the lateral striatum of freely moving rats were determined. CRF had biphasic effects, with 0.1 and 0.3 microgram decreasing, and 3.0 micrograms increasing 5-HT dialysate concentrations. i.c.v. administration of CRF inhibited neuronal activity of the majority of dorsal raphe neurons at both low (0.3 microgram) and high (3 micrograms) doses. Likewise, intraraphe administration of CRF (0.3 and 1.0 ng) had predominantly inhibitory effects on discharge rate. Together, these results suggest that CRF is positioned to regulate the function of the dorsal raphe serotonergic system via actions within the cell body region. This regulation may play a role in stress-related psychiatric disorders in which 5-HT has been implicated.