Six experiments used rats to study the effects of the beta-carboline FG 7142 on extinction of fear responses (freezing) to an auditory cue that had signalled footshock. Subcutaneous injection of FG 7142 interfered with the development of extinction without having any detectable effect on the rats' levels of fear prior to extinction. Injection of FG 7142 also reversed extinction, partially reinstating fear responses that had been extinguished previously. A similar reinstatement of extinguished fear was seen when rats were tested for fear of the cue in a different chamber. The reinstatement produced by FG 7142 and that caused by context shift were not additive: FG 7142 did not increase extinguished fear if rats were tested in the different chamber. Finally, FG 7142 had no detectable effect on the latent inhibition of fear produced by repeatedly presenting the cue alone before conditioning with shock, even though this inhibition, like extinction, was affected by a shift in context. The present findings indicate that GABA transmission at GABA(A) receptors is involved in the inhibition of extinguished fear, and that this effect of GABA is regulated by those cues that constitute the extinction context.