The review presents our results on the regulatory role of prostaglandins (PG) and nitric oxide (NO) in the activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis by cholinergic, adrenergic and histaminergic systems and by neurohormones: corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) under basal conditions. The synthesis of endogenous PG or NO was inhibited by non-selective and selective cyclooxygenase (COX) antagonists and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) blockers given 15 min before the respective receptor agonist and HPA axis activity was assessed 1 h later by measuring plasma ACTH and serum corticosterone levels. The muscarinic agent - carbachol-induced HPA response was considerably supressed by piroxicam, a predominantly constitutive cyclooxygenase (COX-1) inhibitor and significantly diminished by indomethacin, a non-selective COX blocker, but was unaffected by compound NS-398, an inducible cyclooxygenase (COX-2) antagonist. A non-selective NOS antagonist L-NAME and neuronal NOS blocker L-NNA significantly intensified the carbachol-induced corticosterone secretion. The nicotine-induced increase in ACTH and corticosterone response was significantly supressed by piroxicam, and diminished by indomethacin, but was significantly augmented by L-NAME and L-NNA. The inhibition of PG synthesis by indomethacin totally abolished or reversed the increase of nicotine-induced hormone responses to both NOS blockers. The i.c.v. phenylephrine, an alpha(1)-adrenergic receptor agonist - evoked HPA response was significantly impaired by piroxicam and compound NS-398 and more potently reduced by L-NAME. The i.c.v. clonidine, an alpha(2)-adrenergic agonist - elicited HPA response was also considerably decreased by piroxicam, compound NS-398 and L-NAME. By contrast, the stimulatory effect of i.c.v. isoprenaline, a non-selective beta-adrenergic agonist, was not altered by either COX or NOS inhibitors. The i.c.v. histamine- and HTMT, a histamine H(1)-agonist-induced ACTH and corticosterone response were significantly diminished by piroxicam and indomethacin, respectively. Compound NS-398, did not markedly alter the HPA response to HTMT or amthamine, a histamine H(2) receptor agonist. Inhibition of endogenous NO synthesis by a neuronal NOS inhibitor 7-nitroindazole markedly enhanced the histamine-induced hormone secretion, abolished the HTMT-induced response and did not substantially alter the amthamine-evoked ACTH and corticosterone secretion. COX blockers did not significantly affect the CRH-induced HPA response and the inhibition of NO synthesis by L-NNA markedly intensified ACTH response. The vasopressin-stimulated increase in HPA response, was considerably reduced by the inhibition of PG synthesis by both COX antagonists while inhibition of NO synthesis by NOS blockers greatly enhanced this response. The involvement of PG and NO in the neurohormonal regulation of HPA activity depends mainly on greatly complex and tightly regulated mechanisms at the level of second messengers IP(3) and adenylyl cyclase systems.