Previous studies have shown that human 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)1A receptors stably expressed in transfected cell lines show constitutive G-protein activity, as revealed by the inhibitory effect of inverse agonists, such as spiperone, on basal guanosine-5'-O-(3-[35S]thio)-triphosphate ([35S]GTPgammaS) binding. In the present study, we evaluated the constitutive activity of native rat 5-HT1A receptors in hippocampal membranes. Using anti-Galphao-antibody capture coupled to scintillation proximity assay under low sodium (30 mM) conditions, we observed high basal [35S]GTPgammaS binding to Galphao subunits (defined as 100%). Under these conditions, 5-HT and the prototypic selective 5-HT1A agonist (+)8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin [(+)-8-OH-DPAT] both stimulated [35S]GTPgammaS binding to Galphao to a similar extent, raising binding to approximately 130% of basal with pEC50 values of 7.91 and 7.87, respectively. The 5-HT1A-selective neutral antagonist [O-methyl-3H]-N-(2-(4-(2-methoxyphenyl)-1-piperazinyl)ethyl)-N-(2-pyridinyl)cyclohexanecarboxamide trihydrochloride (WAY100,635) could block these effects in a competitive manner with pKb values (5-HT, 9.57; (+)-8-OH-DPAT, 9.52) that are consistent with its pKi value at r5-HT1A receptors (9.33). In this native receptor system, spiperone and methiothepin reduced basal [35S]GTPgammaS binding to Galphao in a concentration-dependent manner to 90% of basal with pIC50 values of 7.37 and 7.98, respectively. The inhibition of basal [35S]GTPgammaS binding induced by maximally effective concentrations of spiperone (10 microM) or methiothepin (1 microM) was antagonized by WAY100,635 in a concentration-dependent manner (pKb, 9.52 and 8.87, respectively), thus indicating that this inverse agonism was mediated by 5-HT1A receptors. These data provide the first demonstration that native rat serotonin 5-HT1A receptors can exhibit constitutive activity in vitro.