In view of a postulated role of the vigilance-promoting drug modafinil in depression, the interaction of modafinil and two classical antidepressant drugs, fluoxetine and imipramine, were studied in 5-HT levels in the dorsal raphe-cortical system using dual-probe microdialysis. Fluoxetine (1-10 mg/kg) dose-dependently increased dorsal raphe-cortical 5-HT levels. Modafinil at a very low dose (3 mg/kg), by itself ineffective, enhanced the fluoxetine (5 mg/kg)-induced increases of 5-HT levels in both brain areas. A synergistic interaction was observed in the prefrontal cortex with fluoxetine (1 mg/kg) in terms of 5-HT release, but not in the dorsal raphe. Imipramine (1.3 mg/kg) increased 5-HT levels in the dorsal raphe, but not in the prefrontal cortex, while the higher doses (10.9-21.8 mg/kg) caused substantial increases in both brain areas. Modafinil (3 mg/kg), injected before imipramine (1.3 mg/kg), which by itself was ineffective on cortical 5-HT levels, increased cortical 5-HT levels. On other hand, modafinil failed to affect the high-dose imipramine (10.9 mg/kg)-induced increase of 5-HT levels in the prefrontal cortex and the imipramine (1.3; 10.9 mg/kg)-induced increase of 5-HT levels in the dorsal raphe nucleus. These results demonstrate that modafinil in low doses enhances the acute effects of fluoxetine and imipramine on 5-HT levels in the dorsal raphe nucleus (fluoxetine only) and especially in the prefrontal cortex of the awake rat. These findings suggest a therapeutic potential of low doses of modafinil in the treatment of depression when combined with low doses of classical antidepressants, especially by increasing 5-HT transmission in cortical regions.