We investigated how serotonergic neurotransmission was affected by 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesioning of the adult rat brain dopamine (DA) system. In this animal model for Parkinson's disease (PD), the effect of destroying ascending DA pathways on extracellular levels of serotonin (5-HT) and 5-HT innervation in rat striatum were examined. Profound unilateral lesions of the nigrostriatal DA pathways were made by infusing 6-OHDA unilaterally into either the right medial forebrain bundle or the right substantia nigra. At 5 weeks after lesioning extracellular levels of DA and 5-HT were determined with microdialysis and high-pressure liquid chromatography under basal conditions and after systemic injections of apomorphine or amphetamine. DA nerve-terminal destruction and 5-HT innervation were determined with quantitative autoradiography. 6-OHDA lesioning reduced extracellular levels of DA below detection limits and led to statistically significant increases in extracellular 5-HT. Apomorphine, and amphetamine, respectively increased extracellular 5-HT to 8.2- and 2.2-fold above baseline levels in intact animals; these effects were absent in 6-OHDA-lesioned animals. Basal levels of [(3)H]paroxetine binding to 5-HT transporters in caudate-putamen increased by 41% in 6-OHDA-lesioned animals. These results suggest that 6-OHDA lesioning led to hyperinnervation of 5-HT nerve terminals and increases in basal extracellular 5-HT levels, but also to an unexplained loss of apomorphine and amphetamine-induced release of 5-HT. Addressing whether this impairment has significance in the onset of PD might lead to development of new strategies to manage parkinsonian symptoms.