A combined in vivo microdialysis/biotelemetry method in freely moving rats was used to study the effects of an endotoxic challenge on brain neurotransmission, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activity, autonomic functions and behaviour. Rats were equipped with a microdialysis probe in the preoptic area and a transmitter for biotelemetry in the peritoneal cavity. Time-dependent changes in noradrenergic and serotonergic neurotransmission, and HPA axis activity were monitored by measuring noradrenaline, serotonin, their metabolites and free corticosterone concentrations in dialysates. Core body temperature, heart rate and locomotion were measured simultaneously by biotelemetry. In addition, total behavioural activity was scored by measuring the time during which rats were active. Intraperitoneal administration of endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide; 100 μg/kg body weight) caused a pronounced increase in preoptic extracellular concentrations of noradrenaline and its metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG; 500 and 400% of baseline respectively). No effect was found on preoptic concentrations of serotonin, although the levels of its metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid were slightly elevated (120% of baseline). Intraperitoneal lipopolysaccharide caused a marked increase in corticosterone levels, a decline in behavioural activity, and biphasic rises in body temperature and heart rate. Analysis of the time curves revealed that noradrenaline rose in parallel with the first increase in body temperature and the increase in corticosterone levels. Moreover, maximum noradrenaline levels were reached ˜60 min earlier than the peak in body temperature and corticosterone concentrations. Intraperitoneal pretreatment with the cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor indomethacin prevented the lipopolysaccharide-induced changes in body temperature, heart rate and behavioural activity, whereas the changes in noradrenaline, MHPG and corticosterone were largely, but not completely, reduced. Taken together, the results show that an endotoxic challenge results in a highly differentiated response in brain neurotransmission. We postulate that the profound increase in preoptic noradrenergic neurotransmission may be related to the lipopolysaccharide-evoked induction of fever and/or activation of the HPA axis.