Fear-conditioned analgesia is an important survival response which is expressed upon re-exposure to a context previously paired with a noxious stimulus. The aim of the present study was to characterize further the behavioral, monoaminergic and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis alterations associated with expression of fear-conditioned analgesia. Rats which had received footshock conditioning 24 h earlier, exhibited reduced formalin-evoked nociceptive behavior upon re-exposure to the footshock chamber, compared with non-footshocked formalin-treated rats. Intra-plantar injection of formalin reduced the duration of contextually-induced freezing and 20-40 kHz ultrasound emission. Intra-plantar injection of formalin to non-footshocked, non-conditioned rats did not induce ultrasonic vocalizations. Intra-plantar injection of formalin to footshock-conditioned rats, significantly increased tissue levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid and the 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid:dopamine ratio in the periaqueductal gray and reduced levels of dopamine in the thalamus, compared with saline-treated footshocked controls. Non-footshocked, non-conditioned rats were capable of mounting a robust formalin-evoked increase in plasma corticosterone levels. Moreover, plasma corticosterone levels were significantly higher in saline-treated, footshock conditioned rats compared with saline-treated non-footshocked rats and levels did not differ between saline- and formalin-treated footshock conditioned rats. Assessment of the effects of the intra-plantar injection procedure revealed an attenuation of short-term extinction of contextually-induced freezing in rats anesthetized for intra-plantar injection of saline compared with non-anesthetized, non-injected rats as well as discrete effects on monoamines, their metabolites and plasma corticosterone levels. These data extend behavioral characterization of the phenomenon of fear-conditioned analgesia and suggest that measurement of ultrasound emission may be used as an ethologically relevant index of the defense response during fear-conditioned analgesia. Ultrasonic vocalization may also be a useful behavioral output to aid separation of nociception and aversion. The data provide evidence for discrete alterations in dopaminergic activity in the periaqueductal gray and thalamus and for altered hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis activity following expression of defensive behavior. (C) 2005 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of IBRO.