The central serotonergic system has long been known to have a stimulatory role on the secretion of prolactin (PRL). The integrity of serotonergic neurotransmission is essential for the expression of the estrogen-induced afternoon PRL surge. Whether its effect on PRL involves change in the activity of tuberoinfundibular dopaminergic (TIDA) neurons has not been ascertained. In adult ovariectomized rats treated with estrogen, depletion of central serotonin (5-HT) by 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT, 200 µg/rat, i.c.v.) effectively prevented the afternoon fall in TIDA neuronal activity (using the levels of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), and the ratio of DOPAC/dopamine in the median eminence as indices), and blunted the afternoon PRL surge. A single injection of a 5-HT<sub>2A</sub> receptor antagonist, ketanserin (5 mg/kg, i.p. at 12.00 h), also had the same effects on the diurnal changes in TIDA neuronal activity and PRL secretion as the treatment with 5,7-DHT did. Intracerebroventricular injection of a 5-HT<sub>2</sub> receptor agonist 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodoamphetamine (DOI) in the morning inhibited the TIDA neuronal activity and stimulated PRL secretion in a dose-dependent manner; while injection of a 5-HT<sub>1</sub> agonist, 8-hydroxy-dipropylaminotetralin, was without effect. Injection of DOI in 5,7-DHT-pretreated rats at 14.30 h also lowered the TIDA neuronal activity and reinstated the PRL surge. In all, endogenous 5-HT, acting through the 5-HT<sub>2A</sub> receptor, appears to exhibit an inhibitory effect on TIDA neuronal activity during the afternoon, which is essential for the PRL surge.