The clonidine mydriasis model in rats has been widely applied in preclinical research to characterize a -adrenoceptor antagonistic properties of drugs. The present study was undertaken to pharmacologically determine if imidazoline I receptors are also involved in this model system. Sigmoid dose-response curves for pupillary dilation were produced in pentobarbital anesthetized rats by intravenous administration of increasing doses of agonists (guanabenz for a -adrenoceptors, clonidine for both a - adrenoceptors and imidazoline I receptors, and rilmenidine for imidazoline I receptors). Two antagonists (RS 79948 for a -adrenoceptors and efaroxan for imidazoline I receptors) were used to antagonize the mydriasis elicited by those three agonists, with antagonistic potencies calculated. In additional experiments, we examined the effect of the selective imidazoline I receptor antagonist, AGN 192403, on clonidine-induced mydriasis. The results showed that pupillary response curves elicited by guanabenz, clonidine and rilmenidine were competitively antagonized by both RS 79948 (0.03-1 mg/kg) and efaroxan (0.03-1 mg/kg) in a dose-related fashion. The potencies of either antagonist against the three agonists were not significantly different. AGN 192403 (5 mg/kg) did not significantly shift the clonidine mydriasis curve. These results suggest that imidazoline I receptors are not functionally involved in the rat clonidine mydriasis model and support this in vivo system as a useful model for studies of a -adrenoceptors.