1. The effects of neuropeptide Y (NPY) were examined on adrenergic and non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic (NANC) neurotransmission in the rat anococcygeus muscle. 2. NPY (0.1-0.3 microM) greatly potentiated the contractile responses induced by field stimulation. Prazosin (0.1 microM) completely abolished the stimulation-induced responses either in the absence or presence of NPY. 3. NPY (0.1-0.3 microM) enhanced only the contractile responses to low doses of noradrenaline (NA, 0.003-0.01 microM). Responses to tyramine were unaffected by the same concentrations of NPY. 4. In superfused anococcygeus, previously loaded with [3H]-NA, NPY (0.1-0.3 microM) failed to modify the basal, as well as the stimulation-evoked, release of tritium at 2 and 4 Hz. 5. NANC relaxations induced by electrical stimulation were significantly reduced, in a concentration-related manner, by 0.1-0.3 microM NPY. 6. L-NG-nitro-arginine (L-NOARG, 30 microM) enhanced the stimulation (0.25-1 Hz)-induced motor responses. In the presence of L-NOARG (30 microM), NPY (0.1 microM) did not modify the motor responses induced by field stimulation (0.25-0.5 Hz). L-Arginine did not reverse the NPY-induced potentiation of stimulation-induced motor responses. 7. The relaxations of anococcygeus muscle induced by sodium nitroprusside (SNP, 0.01-0.3 microM) were diminished by NPY (0.1-0.3 microM). 8. Our study suggests that NPY, at concentrations devoid of contractile effect, potentiates the motor responses of rat anococcygeus muscle as a consequence, at least in part, of the inhibition of NANC relaxing responses by a different mechanism from L-NOARG.