The effects of D-fenfluramine on core body temperature has been largely investigated under conditions of either high or low ambient temperature, whereas little research has focused on this response under normal environmental conditions. Moreover, there has been neglect in research on the mechanisms underlying changes in body temperature. In this study, we demonstrate that D-fenfluramine (5 and 10 mg/kg) induces a sustained decrease in body temperature in the rat under normal ambient temperatures. Pre-treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline (5 mg/kg), the full 5-HT1A receptor antagonist 4-fluoro-N-[2-[4-(2-methoxyphenyl)-1-piperazinyl]ethyl]-2-pyridinyl benzamide], WAY 100635 (0.15 mg/kg) and the 5-HT2C receptor antagonist benzofuran-2-carboxamidine, RO 43-0440 (2.5 mg/kg) blocked D-fenfluramine-induced hypothermia. Depletion of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) stores following treatment with the serotonergic neurotoxin parachlorophenylalanine reversed the initial hypothermic effects of D-fenfluramine but not the later effects, as D-fenfluramine produced a delayed hypothermia (>120 min post-challenge) in animals pre-treated with parachlorophenylalanine. Such findings are consistent with a requirement for D-fenfluramine uptake into 5-HT neurons followed by release of 5-HT from intracellular stores and stimulation of post-synaptic 5-HT receptors to reduce body temperature. The hypothermic response to D-fenfluramine was potentiated by ketanserin pre-treatment 30 min post-challenge but then antagonized at later time intervals. Pre-treatment with the dopamine, D-2 antagonist, haloperidol (1 mg/kg) and sulpiride (30 mg/kg) had a similar effect in blocking the hypothermia as WAY 100635, suggesting a role for dopamine D-2 receptors in the response. Pre-treatment with the alpha(2)-adrenoceptor antagonist yohimbine failed to block the hypothermic response. These results suggest multiple sites of action mediating D-fenfluramine-induced hypothermia and may be the result of a combined effect of D-fenfluramine and its active metabolite norfenfluramine affecting not only the release of 5-HT but also stimulation of post-synaptic receptors. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.