Previous studies have demonstrated that 5-HT2A receptors may be involved in the central control of thermoregulation and of the cardiovascular system. Our aim was to test whether these receptors mediate thermogenic and tachycardiac responses induced by acute psychological stress. Three groups of adult male Hooded Wistar rats were instrumented with: (i) a thermistor in the interscapular area (for recording brown adipose tissue temperature) and an ultrasound Doppler probe (to record tail blood flow); (ii) temperature dataloggers to record core body temperature; (iii) ECG electrodes. On the day of the experiment, rats were subjected to a 30-min restraint stress preceded by s.c. injection of either vehicle or SR-46349B (a serotonin 2A receptor antagonist) at doses of 0.01, 0.1 and 1.0 mg/kg. The restraint stress caused a rise in brown adipose tissue temperature (from, mean +/- s.e.m., 36.6 +/- 0.2 to 38.0 +/- 0.2 degrees C), transient cutaneous vasoconstriction (tail blood flow decreased from 12 +/- 2 to 5 +/- 1 cm/s), increase in heart rate (from 303 +/- 15 to 453 +/- 15 bpm at the peak, then reduced to 393 +/- 12 bpm at the steady state), and defaecation (6 +/- 1 pellets per restraint session). The core body temperature was not affected by the restraint. Blockade of 5-HT2A receptors attenuated the increase in brown adipose tissue temperature and transient cutaneous vasoconstriction, but not tachycardia and defaecation elicited by restraint stress. These results indicate that psychological stress causes activation of 5-HT2A receptors in neural pathways that control thermogenesis in the brown adipose tissue and facilitate cutaneous vasoconstriction.