Dry mouth is one of the major side effects of cyclic antidepressants, which are still a dominating group of psychotherapeutic drugs used in the treatment of depression. In this study we analyzed the effects of 28 day tricyclic antidepressant administration and the reversibility of this treatment following a 15 day washout period on different parameters in submandibular gland function in aging rats. We postulated that desipramine would decrease gland function, accented with age, and delay recovery in senescent animals. In contrast to body weight, desipramine had no effect on glandular wet weight. While glandular DNA synthesis was changed with age and treatment, the concentration of total membrane and soluble proteins was not affected. Flow rate was significantly changed with age, but desipramine increased salivary flow in the youngest animals only. Neither age nor treatment influenced salivary protein concentrations, but the total amount of proteins secreted, revealed perturbation with age. SDS- polyacrylamide gel analysis revealed changes in protein expression with treatment and age. Desipramine decreased epidermal growth factor (EGF) levels in all age groups, but increased the secretion of peroxidase and lysozyme. Analysis of total RNA showed a pronounced decrease with age. These data indicate that desipramine has profound effects on submandibular salivary gland function.