We have previously shown that histaminergic neurons participate in mediation of the prolactin (PRL), adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and oxytocin responses to physiological stimuli such as stress and dehydration. Since suckling is a potent stimulus for the secretion of these three hormones, we investigated the mediating role of neuronal histamine in suckling-induced release of oxytocin, PRL and ACTH in conscious lactating rats. The animals were pretreated with the histamine synthesis inhibitor alpha-fluoromethylhistidine, the H1 receptor antagonist mepyramine, the H2 receptor antagonist cimetidine or the H3 receptor agonist R (alpha) methylhistamine, which by binding to H3 autoreceptors inhibits histamine release and synthesis. After the lactating rats were separated from their pups for 240 min, the pups were returned for a suckling period of 20 min. Thereafter the mothers were sacrificed by decapitation and trunk blood was collected for determination of hormones. Lactating rats not exposed to suckling served as controls. Suckling increased oxytocin 2-fold, PRL 50-fold and ACTH 5-fold. Blockade of histamine synthesis by alpha-fluoromethylhistidine or histamine release by R(alpha)methylhistamine reduced the suckling-induced secretion of the three hormones significantly. Blockade of postsynaptic H1 receptors by mepyramine inhibited the hormone responses to suckling, while the blockade of postsynaptic H2 receptors by cimetidine decreased the suckling-induced oxytocin and PRL release but did not affect the ACTH release. None of the compounds affected oxytocin, PRL or ACTH secretion in lactating mothers not exposed to suckling. In addition, suckling significantly increased the mRNA of the histamine synthesizing enzyme histidine decarboxylase in the ventrolateral tuberomammillary nucleus by 1.5-fold, indicating that the stimulus of suckling enhances the neuronal histamine synthesis. We conclude that suckling increases neuronal histamine synthesis and that histaminergic neurons by activation of postsynaptic H1 and H2 receptors are involved in the hypothalamic mediation of oxytocin, PRL and ACTH responses to suckling. These findings further substantiate a role of neuronal histamine in the neuroendocrine regulation of pituitary hormones in response to physiological stimuli.