We have examined several aspects of neurotransmitter function in the brains of mice carrying a deletion mutation in the gene encoding the purine salvage enzyme hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT). During the first 6 weeks of postnatal development, dopamine levels in whole-brain extracts from the mutant mice (HPRT-) failed to increase at rates comparable to normal animals, resulting in 40% lower dopamine levels throughout adulthood. Regional analysis in adult animals showed the caudoputamen to be the most severely affected region, with dopamine deficits of 48–64%. Dopamine levels in other regions were normal or less severely affected. The decrease in dopamine was accompanied by a decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity, the rate-limiting step in dopamine synthesis. Kinetic analysis of TH extracted from the caudoputamen of normal and HPRT- mice demonstrated a 45% decrease in Vmax with an increased affinity for the tetrahydropterin cofactor in the mutants. Labeling of midbrain dopamine neurons using TH immunohistochemistry revealed no obvious deficits in the number of midbrain dopamine neurons, but quantitative autoradiographic studies revealed significant reductions in the binding of 3H-N-[1-(2-benzo(beta)thiophenyl)cyclohexyl]piperidine (3H-BTCP) to dopamine uptake sites in the forebrain of the mutants. In contrast to these abnormalities of the dopamine systems in the mutant mice, other neurotransmitter systems appeared relatively unaffected. Norepinephrine, 5-HT, tryptophan hydroxylase, and glutamic acid decarboxylase were present at normal levels in the brains of the mutants. ChAT activity was slightly lower than normal in the caudoputamen of the mutant animals, but was normal in all other brain regions examined. These results indicate that HPRT deficiency is associated with a relatively specific deficit in basal ganglia dopamine systems that emerges during the first 2 months of postnatal development.