The purpose of the present study was to examine the role of serotonin release in methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-induced immunosuppression in rats. We examined the effect of pretreatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor paroxetine, and the tryptophan hydroxylase inhibitor para-chlorophenylalanine on MDMA-induced suppression of interleukin-1 beta and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha secretion following an in vivo lipopolysaccharide challenge. Although paroxetine blocked MDMA-induced serotonin depletion in the cortex and hypothalamus, it failed to alter the suppressive effect of MDMA on lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-alpha secretion. Similarly, although para-chlorophenylalanine caused a 90% depletion in cortical and hypothalamic serotonin content, it failed to alter the suppressive effect of MDMA on lipopolysaccharide-induced interleukin-1 beta or TNF-alpha secretion. In conclusion, although MDMA is a potent releaser of serotonin, the suppressive effects of MDMA on lipopolysaccharide-induced proinflammatory cytokine secretion cannot be attributed to its serotonin-releasing properties. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.