The Limitations of antidepressant drugs to treat depression has warranted ongoing research to identify pharmacological agents and strategies which offer a faster onset of action and greater therapeutic efficacy. Noradrenaline and serotonin are widely reported to be involved in the mechanism of action of antidepressants and the recent development of selective reuptake inhibitors of these transmitters has provided the opportunity to determine the effects of targeting these transmitter systems, alone and in combination, in an antidepressant response. The present study investigated the effects of reboxetine, a new antidepressant that selectively inhibits noradrenaline reuptake, sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and a combination treatment composed of the two drugs in the olfactory bulbectomized (OB) rat model of depression. Sub-acute (2 days) administration of reboxetine (2.5, 5, and 10 mg/kg, i.p.) to sham-operated and OB rats reduced the immobility time in the forced swim test. Repeated (14 days) reboxetine (10 mg/kg) treatment attenuated the OB-related behavioural hyperactivity in the 'open-field' test. Examination of the onset of the antidepressant effect in the 'open-field' test demonstrated that reboxetine (10 mg/kg), sertraline (5 mg/kg) and the combination reduced the behavioural hyperactivity after 14 days but not before this following 3, 7 or 10 days of treatment. Reduced 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) concentrations in amygdaloid cortex of both sham and OB rats following sertraline and combination treatments are likely to be related to acute pharmacological effects on the reuptake of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). Attenuation of the hypothermia induced by 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT, 0.05 mg/kg s.c.) and clonidine (0.1 mg/kg s.c.) occurred in the reboxetine and sertraline combination treated groups following both 7 and 14 days administration indicating changes to 5-HT1A receptor and alpha(2)-adrenoceptor sensitivity. The results indicate that changes to 8-OH-DPAT and clonidine-induced responses occur quicker with the combination treatment than with either reboxetine or sertraline treatments alone. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.