Mirtazapine displayed marked affinity for cloned, human alpha2A-adrenergic (AR) receptors at which it blocked noradrenaline (NA)-induced stimulation of guanosine-5'-O-(3-[35S]thio)-triphosphate ([35S]-GTPgammaS) binding. Similarly, mirtazapine showed high affinity for cloned, human serotonin (5-HT)2C receptors at which it abolished 5-HT-induced phosphoinositide generation. Alpha2-AR antagonist properties were revealed in vivo by blockade of UK-14,304-induced antinociception, while antagonist actions at 5-HT2C receptors were demonstrated by blockade of Ro 60 0175-induced penile erections and discriminative stimulus properties. Mirtazapine showed negligible affinity for 5-HT reuptake sites, in contrast to the selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor, citalopram. In freely moving rats, in the dorsal hippocampus, frontal cortex (FCX), nucleus accumbens and striatum, citalopram increased dialysate levels of 5-HT, but not dopamine (DA) and NA. On the contrary, mirtazapine markedly elevated dialysate levels of NA and, in FCX, DA, whereas 5-HT was not affected. Citalopram inhibited the firing rate of serotonergic neurons in dorsal raphe nucleus, but not of dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area, nor adrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus. Mirtazapine, in contrast, enhanced the firing rate of dopaminergic and adrenergic, but not serotonergic, neurons. Following 2 weeks administration, the facilitatory influence of mirtazapine upon dialysate levels of DA and NA versus 5-HT in FCX was maintained, and the influence of citalopram upon FCX levels of 5-HT versus DA and NA was also unchanged. Moreover, citalopram still inhibited, and mirtazapine still failed to influence, dorsal raphe serotonergic neurons. In conclusion, in contrast to citalopram, mirtazapine reinforces frontocortical dopaminergic and corticolimbic adrenergic, but not serotonergic, transmission. These actions reflect antagonist properties at alpha2A-AR and 5-HT2C receptors.