Evidence from electrophysiological studies has suggested an inhibitory interaction between GABAergic neurons in substantia nigra pars reticulata and dopaminergic neurons in pars compacta. However, that this inhibitory interaction is due to a projection from pars reticulata to pars compacta has never been demonstrated directly, nor has the GABAergic neuron that mediates the interaction been identified either electrophysiologically or anatomically. To more closely examine interactions between substantia nigra pars reticulata GABA neurons and dopaminergic neurons, single unit extracellular recordings were obtained from antidromically identified nigrostriatal neurons and their response to antidromic activation of nigral GABAergic projection neurons observed. Stimulation of superior colliculus or thalamus produced a short latency inhibition of dopaminergic neurons. This inhibition was blocked by local application of bicuculline but not 2- hydroxysaclofen. Bicuculline caused most dopaminergic neurons to fire in a bursty mode, whereas saclofen caused most dopaminergic neurons to fire in a pacemaker-like mode. The thalamic-evoked inhibition was not affected by kainate lesions of the globus pallidus, but these lesions produced effects on firing pattern identical to those produced by saclofen. These data demonstrate a short latency inhibition of nigral dopaminergic neurons mediated by GABAA receptors that arises from the axon collaterals of pars reticulata projection neurons. We propose a model in which the firing pattern of nigral dopaminergic neurons in vivo is modulated differentially by disinhibition of GABAA inputs arising from pars reticulata projection neuron axon collaterals and disinhibition of pallidonigral GABAergic inputs mediated by GABAB receptors.