A single dose of typical neuroleptic, haloperidol, has been demonstrated to increase the expression of neurotensin/neuromedin N (NT/N) mRNA in the dorsolateral striatum within 1 hr of its administration (Merchant et al., 1991). The present study further investigated neuroleptic-induced regulation of NT/N gene transcription. Levels of NT/N mRNA were examined at various times following a single dose of haloperidol (1 mg/kg, i.p.) or the atypical antipsychotic clozapine (20, 30, or 40 mg/kg, i.p.) by in situ hybridization histochemistry and quantitative solution hybridization. In the dorsolateral striatum, the two drugs had strikingly different effects; haloperidol rapidly (within 30 min) increased the expression of mature NT/N mRNA while virtually no increase was observed in response to nontoxic doses of clozapine at any of the time points examined. Following haloperidol, maximal induction occurred at 7 hr, at which time NT/N mRNA levels were an order of magnitude higher than basal levels. By 20 hr after haloperidol, there was a significant decline in striatal NT/N mRNA levels. In situ hybridization analysis using an intron-derived probe revealed that haloperidol-induced increases in mature NT/N mRNA levels in the striatum were preceded by a transient increase in intron-containing NT/N gene transcripts. These data strongly indicate that acute haloperidol treatment results in transient transcriptional activation of NT/N gene, although a concomitant effect on the stability of NT/N primary transcripts cannot be ruled out. In contrast to their differential effects in the dorsolateral striatum, a single dose of both haloperidol and clozapine induced a small but significant increase in NT/N mRNA expression in the shell sector of the nucleus accumbens. These results raise the possibility that NT neurons in the nucleus accumbens may, at least in part, mediate the antipsychotic effects of classical neuroleptics, whereas NT cells in the dorsolateral region of the striatum may be involved in mediating other effects of typical neuroleptics such as extrapyramidal motor symptoms.