Chronic treatment with the antihyperglycemic agent metformin prevents hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats. This effect has been ascribed to normalization of plasma insulin levels. However, whether metformin affects arterial pressure via changes in sympathetic nerve activity is unknown. Therefore, the objective of this study was to examine whether acute administration of metformin produces changes in mean arterial pressure, heart rate, or efferent renal sympathetic nerve activity in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Rats were anesthetized with alphaxalone-alphadolone (Saffan), paralyzed with pancuronium, and artificially ventilated. Intravenous administration of metformin (0, 1, 10, 100 mg/kg) produced dose-dependent reversible decreases in mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and efferent renal sympathetic nerve activity that were not affected by arterial or cardiopulmonary baroreceptor denervation, nitric oxide synthase inhibition by N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, or cyclooxygenase inhibition by indomethacin. Metformin given into the lateral cerebral ventricle (250, 500, 1000 microg) produced dose-dependent decreases in mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and efferent renal sympathetic nerve activity in doses that caused no changes when given intravenously. The sympathoinhibitory response to intracerebroventricular administration of metformin was not affected by alpha2-adrenoceptor blockade by intracerebroventricular yohimbine. We conclude that metformin has acute sympathoinhibitory effects (decreased arterial pressure, heart rate, and efferent renal sympathetic nerve activity) that are produced by a direct central nervous system site of action.