Somatostatin (SRIH) functions as an endocrine mediator in processes such as growth, immune resistance and reproduction. Five SRIH receptors (sstr1-5) have been identified in mammals, where they are expressed in both the brain and peripheral tIssues. To study the specific function of each receptor subtype, specific agonists (ag1-5) have been synthesized. The high degree of homology between mammalian and avian SRIH receptors suggests that these agonists might also be used in chickens. In this paper we describe two in vitro protocols (static incubation and perifusion system) to identify the SRIH receptors controlling the secretion of GH and TSH from the chicken pituitary. We found that basal GH or TSH secretion were never affected when SRIH or an agonist (1 microM) were added. SRIH diminished the GH as well as the TSH response to TSH-releasing hormone (TRH; 100 nM) in both systems. Our results have indicated that the SRIH actions at the level of the pituitary are regulated through specific receptor subtypes. In both the static and flow incubations, ag2 lowered the GH response to TRH, whereas stimulated TSH release was diminished by both ag2 and ag5. Ag3 and ag4 tended to increase rather than decrease the responsiveness of both pituitary cell types to TRH in perifusion studies. Our data have indicated that SRIH inhibits chicken pituitary function through sstr2 and sstr5. Only sstr2 seems to be involved in the control of chicken GH release, whereas both sstr2 and sstr5 inhibit induced GH secretion in mammals. The possible stimulatory action of ag3 and ag4 may point towards a species-specific function of sstr3 and sstr4.