Methamphetamine (METH) is an addictive substance that also causes extensive neural degeneration in the central nervous system. Because METH augments striatal substance P (SP) levels, we hypothesized that this neuropeptide plays a role in methamphetamine-induced toxicity and neural damage in the striatum. In this study we present evidence demonstrating that signaling through the neurokinin-1 (NK-1) receptor by SP plays an important role in methamphetamine-induced toxicity in the striatum. We tested the effects of the selective NK-1 receptor antagonists WIN-51,708 and L-733,060 on several markers of dopaminergic terminal toxicity in the mouse striatum. Administration of NK-1 receptor antagonist prevented the loss of dopamine transporters assessed by autoradiography and western blotting, the loss of tissue dopamine assessed by high-pressure liquid chromatography, and the loss of tyrosine hydroxylase, as well as the induction of glial fibrillary acidic protein determined by western blotting. Pre-treatment with NK-1 receptor antagonist had no effect on METH-induced hyperthermia. Pre-exposure of mice to either of the NK-1 receptor antagonists alone was without effect on all of these neurochemical markers. These results provide the first evidence that tachykinins, particularly SP, acting through NK-1 receptors, play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of nigrostriatal dopaminergic terminal degeneration induced by METH. This finding could lead to novel therapeutic strategies to offset drug addictions as well as in the treatment of a number of disorders including Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases.