Dopamine (DA) is released not only from the terminals of the nigrostriatal projection, but also from the dendrites of these neurons, which arborize in the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNR). Although striatal DA release has been extensively studied by in vivo microdialysis, dendritic DA release in the SNR has not been characterized by this technique. Extracellular DA was monitored simultaneously in the ipsilateral striatum and SNR. The nigral probe was implanted at a 50 degree angle, permitting 2.5 mm of SNR to be dialyzed. Delivery of the tracer Fluoro-Gold into the striatal probe retrogradely labeled tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cell bodies and dendrites in the vicinity of the nigral probe. Hence, it could be demonstrated that dopaminergic neurons near the nigral probe projected to the vicinity of the striatal probe. Addition of 50 mM KCl to the SNR perfusion solution produced a 3.5-fold increase in DA and a 50% reduction in dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) in the SNR; in contrast, this manipulation in the SNR caused DA release in the striatum to be decreased by 20%, while striatal DOPAC was increased by 50%. Local administration of nomifensine (10 microM) in the SNR produced a sevenfold increase in SNR DA but had no effect on striatal DA. Systemic injection of d-amphetamine (2 mg/kg, s.c.) elevated DA in the SNR and striatum five- to sevenfold, while DOPAC was decreased in both structures by at least 40%. To determine the effect of tetrodotoxin (TTX), basal concentrations of DA in the SNR were first elevated threefold by including nomifensine (1 microM) in the nigral perfusion solution.