The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of toluene inhalation on dopaminergic transmission in two distinct brain areas presumably involved in mediating the reward processes important for toluene abuse. Extracellular dopamine (DA) levels were measured in prefrontal cortex (PFC) and nucleus accumbens (NACC) of freely moving rats using in vivo microdialysis. Inhalation of a behaviorally relevant concentration of toluene (3000 ppm) produced a significant increase in the PFC but not in the NACC. However, the odorant isoamyl acetate, increased PFC DA levels by only 37%, significantly less than the 96% increase observed following toluene exposure. When toluene inhalation was combined with cocaine administration (20 mg/kg i.p.), the response to the combined challenge was not different from the response to toluene alone in the PFC. However, the combination of these two drugs produced a supradditive response of 802% in the NACC, compared with the 450% increase observed following cocaine alone. Recent reports indicate that toluene influences the function of several ionotropic receptors in a subunit specific manner. As further evidence of specific effects, our results indicate regionally specific changes in dopaminergic transmission following toluene exposure.