The involvement of histaminergic transmission in the rapid and sustained plasma ACTH and corticosterone (CORT) responses induced in conscious rats by intra-arterial infusions of 25 micrograms.kg-1 Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was investigated. LPS challenge produced a rapid and transient increase (+ 62%) in the amount of histamine (HA) in the median eminence 15 min after LPS administration, which contrasted with constant concentrations of plasma HA throughout the entire study (up to 480 min). Blockade of histaminergic receptors by intra-arterial pretreatment with H1 or H2 antagonists (mepyramine, 1 mg/rat, and cimetidine, 2 mg/rat), administered separately, did not affect either ACTH or CORT responses to LPS. Pretreatment with the same doses of the two antagonists in combination very significantly but transiently impaired the earliest phase (30 min) of the ACTH and CORT responses, without any apparent effect on the late phase of these responses. Pretreatment of the animals with an H3-receptor agonist (R alpha-methylhistamine dihydrochloride, 1 mg/rat) similarly blunted the early corticotropic responses to LPS, and also slightly depressed the long-lasting CORT response. These findings support the view that activated central HA transmission may be a key intermediate mechanism triggering the CRH41-ACTH-CORT responses to LPS, in addition to the previously demonstrated activating role of catecholaminergic afferences to the CRH41 neurons during this early complex phase of corticotropic response to LPS.