To explore the interactions between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis and the immune system under stress conditions, we used an experimental rat model for chronic tail-restraint devised earlier for ground studies in space physiology. The system was used in two positions: (1) the orthostatic restraint position (OR) and (2) the antiorthostatic position (AOR) after the rat hind limbs had been raised by a head-down tilt. After 7 days of either restraint, sequential blood samples were taken via an indwelling aortic cannula, before and at various time intervals between 15 and 300 min after an intravascular infusion of 25 micrograms/kg lipopolysaccharide (LPS). The plasma titers of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), corticosterone (CORT) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) were assayed. Under basal conditions, both OR and AOR restraints induced a 5-fold increase in IL-1 beta with no significant changes in ACTH and CORT levels. A robust increase in all three variables was observed after LPS injection. However, the IL-1 beta response to LPS was significantly higher in both restrained groups than in controls. Both the amplitude and the percentage of individually restrained rats displaying elevated IL-1 beta levels were increased up to 5 h. In contrast, the ACTH and CORT post-LPS responses were normal in the OR group. They were unusually dissociated in the AOR rats, which displayed depressed ACTH levels associated with slightly increased CORT levels. Our results suggest that immune-neuroendocrine responses to chronic restraint stress may differ from those generally observed in acute stress.