This study investigated the effects of acute and chronic (one daily i.p. injection for 14 days) treatments with the non-selective irreversible monoamine-oxidase (MAO) inhibitor phenelzine (10 and 30 mg/kg) on defensive behaviors of Swiss mice in the mouse defense test battery (MDTB) which has been designed for screening anxiolytic and anti-panic drugs. In the MDTB, subjects were confronted with a natural threat (a rat) and situations associated with this threat. MAO-A and MAO-B activities and levels of brain monoamines (serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA) and norepinephrine (NE)) and their deaminated metabolites were subsequently measured. Behavioral results showed that acute administration of phenelzine did not specifically modify defensive behaviors. By contrast, after chronic treatment, phenelzine produced a significant reduction in avoidance distance when the rat was approaching, an effect which is consistent with an anti-panic-like action. In addition, phenelzine displayed weak anxiolytic-like effects as it increased risk assessment responses when mice were constrained in one part of the apparatus facing the rat which remained at a constant distance. No other specific drug effect was observed. These behavioral changes were associated with a dramatic increase in 5-HT levels, in particular after chronic treatment, while levels of DA and NE increased only slightly. Importantly, no significant differences in DA and NE levels between acute and chronic regimens were observed. Levels of deaminated metabolites of monoamines were markedly decreased. Measurements of MAO activity revealed substantial reductions in both type A and B forms with a full inhibition of both forms being observed only after chronic treatment with phenelzine. These results suggest that the effects of phenelzine may be due mainly to its effects on the 5-HT system and presumably related to the full inhibition of MAO-A and/or MAO-B.