Recent evidence demonstrates that two subdivisions of the nucleus accumbens, the dorsolateral core and the ventromedial shell can be distinguished by morphological, immunohistochemical and chemoarchitectural differences. In the present study, we measured basal levels of amino acids in microdialysates from both the shell and core subterritories of the nucleus accumbens in freely moving rats using HPLC with fluorescence detection. The effect of the dopamine D(3)/D(2) receptor agonist quinelorane (30 microg/kg s.c.) was then investigated in both subregions. With the exception of glutamate, histidine, and serine, which showed similar levels in both subterritories, alanine, arginine, aspartate, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamine, and tyrosine were significantly higher in the shell compared with the core. In contrast, taurine levels were significantly lower in the shell than in the core. A particularly striking difference across subregions of the nucleus accumbens was observed for basal GABA levels with a shell/core ratio of 18.5. Among all the amino acids investigated in the present study, quinelorane selectively decreased dialysate GABA levels in the core subregion of the nucleus accumbens. The results of the present study point to specific profiles of both shell and core in terms of: (1) basal chemical neuroanatomical markers for amino acids; and (2) GABAergic response to the DA D(3)/D(2) agonist quinelorane.