1. In order to determine whether GABAergic mechanisms are involved in the control of the milk ejection reflex in the rat, we examined the effects of central administration of a GABAA receptor agonist (muscimol) and antagonist (bicuculline) on the milk ejection reflex in the urethane-anaesthetized rat. 2. Intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of both muscimol (n = 17), at doses of 5, 10 and 20 ng, and bicuculline (n = 15), at doses of 0.01, 0.1 and 0.3 microgram, inhibited the milk ejection reflex in a dose-dependent manner. The bicuculline-induced inhibition was accompanied by desynchronization of the electroencephalogram and, at the highest dose, by alteration in the sensitivity of the mammary gland to oxytocin. No significant effect on the milk ejection reflex was seen with i.c.v. isotonic saline (n = 5). 3. Injection of 20 (n = 5) or 40 ng (n = 2) muscimol or 0.1 microgram bicuculline (n = 5) i.c.v. did not significantly alter the rise in intramammary pressure evoked by electrical stimulation of the neurohypophysis. 4. Bilateral 400 nl microinfusions directly into the supraoptic nuclei of either muscimol (20-100 ng microliter(-1); n = 10) or bicuculline (0.15 micrograms microliter(-1); n = 5) [corrected] resulted in an inhibition of the milk ejection reflex, which was not accompanied by desynchronization of the electroencephalogram. 5. The effects of i.c.v. injections of muscimol (15 and 20 ng) and bicuculline (0.01, 0.12 and 0.3 microgram) on the electrical activity of twenty-seven antidromically identified supraoptic magnocellular neurones were examined. Both compounds resulted in an inhibition of the background firing of oxytocinergic and vasopressinergic cells, and delayed the occurrence of high frequency bursts in oxytocin neurones. In five supraoptic neurones, bicuculline induced a transient activation before inhibition. 6. The powerful inhibitory action on the milk ejection reflex of both muscimol and bicuculline provides evidence for the importance of GABA neurones in maintaining the functional integrity of the mechanisms which allow the intermittent and pulsatile release of oxytocin during suckling.