Chemical lesion of serotonergic afferents to the hippocampus resulted in a potentiation of phenylephrine (PHE) stimulation of cyclic AMP (cAMP) formation in rat hippocampal slices. The concentration-response curve of the alpha-1-agonist in lesioned rats was shifted markedly to the left with the peak increase occurring at a concentration 200 times lower (500 nM) than that required to raise cAMP to the same extent in slices of the sham-operated controls. Adenylate cyclase activity measured on crude homogenate preparations was increased by the lesion, too. The alpha-1 antagonist WB-4101 (dimethyloxyphenoxy-ethylamino-methyl benzo-1,4-dioxan) was the most potent inhibitor of PHE in lesioned rats with an IC50 of 125 nM, 110 times lower than that of prazosin (14 microM); yohimbine and propranolol, respectively, alpha-2 and beta-antagonists caused inhibition only at very high concentrations. Serotonin (10 microM) induced a marked rightward shift in the concentration response of PHE in lesioned rats, without any effect of its own on the cAMP level. PHE stimulated inositol phosphates accumulation in hippocampal slices in a concentration-dependent manner with an EC50 of 20 microM. Chemical lesion of the serotonergic median raphe nuclei caused a significant reduction of PHEs maximal effect on inositol phosphate accumulation by 50% with no change detectable in the EC50. The results imply that both second messenger responses to PHE stimulation are modulated by serotonin. Whether cAMP and phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate generated second messengers act in a cooperative manner, or independently, is discussed.