Although accumulating evidence suggests that serotonergic drugs are able to substitute for the ethanol (EtOH) cue in rats, it is still unclear which 5-HT receptor subtypes are responsible for this phenomenon, and whether these receptors are critically involved in the EtOH cue. In the present study, rats were trained to discriminate EtOH (1000 mg/kg, i.p., t-15min) from saline in a two-lever food-reinforced procedure, and it was investigated to which extent serotonergic compounds with a certain level of specificity for either 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A or S-HT2C receptors generalized to the EtOH cue. Subsequently, the involvement of these receptor subtypes was ascertained by the use of selected 5-HT receptor antagonists. The 5-HT1B receptor agonist CP 94,253 (0.3—5 mg/kg, i.p.) and the mixed 5-HTIB/2C receptor agonist mCPP (0.1–1 mg/kg, i.p.), but not the preferential 5-HT2A receptor agonist DOl (0.3—1 mg/kg, i.p.), completely generalized to the EtOH cue. Complete generalization of the former two compounds coincided with a decrease in response rate. In antagonism studies, it was shown that the 5-HT1B receptor antagonist GR 127935 (10 mg/kg, i.p.) completely blocked generalization of CP 94,253 to the EtOH cue, suggesting that stimulation of 5-HT1B receptors produces discriminative stimulus effects which are similar to those of EtOH. GR 127935 (10 mg/kg, i.p.), as well as the mixed 5-HTIB/2c receptor antagonist metergoline (1 mg/ kg, i.p.), and the 5-HT2C receptor antagonist SB 206,553 (1 mg/kg, i.p.) completely blocked generalization of mCPP to the EtOH cue. This suggests that 5-HTIB and 5-HT2C receptors are required for the generalization of mCPP to the EtOH cue. The present findings indicate that activation of 5-HT1B and S-HT2c, but not of 5-HT2A receptors, mimics the EtOH cue. However, the finding that neither metergoline, nor the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist MDL 100,907 blocked the EtOH cue, suggests that these receptors play only a minor role in the discriminative stimulus effects of a moderately low dose of EtOH. Behav Pharmacol 1998; 9:337–343 1998 Lippincott-Raven Publishers.