The motoric-stimulating effect of dopamine (DA) reuptake blockers is thought to result from the increase in synaptic dopamine levels, which occurs as a consequence of blockade of DA reuptake. The present study tested measured occupancy of the DA transporter in vivo produced by behaviorally equivalent doses of the DA reuptake blockers GBR12909 (20 mg/kg), cocaine (20 mg/kg), WIN35-065-2 (1 mg/kg), and nomifensine (5 mg/kg). Two methods were used to measure in vivo occupancy of the DA transporter: a) an ex vivo method, in which the ability of whole brain supernatants, prepared from rats administered the test drugs, were tested for their ability to inhibit the reuptake of [3H]DA by striatal synaptosomes; and b) an in vivo binding assay using [3H]N-[1-(2-benzo(b)thiophenyl)cyclohexyl]piperidine ([3H]BTCP) to label the striatal DA transporter in vivo. Considerable data support the notion that this measurement is predictive of transporter occupancy in the nucleus accumbens. Similar results were obtained with both methods: The order of potency for apparent transporter occupancy was GBR12909 >> nomifensine > WIN35-065-2 = cocaine. These data indicate that it takes greater occupancy of the DA transporter by GBR12909 to produce behavioral effects equivalent to those produced by cocaine at lower transporter occupancy. The data of the present study suggest, therefore, that studies relating the effects of DA reuptake inhibitors on DA-mediated motoric behaviors to DA transporter occupancy might facilitate the identification of novel compounds potentially useful for the pharmacotherapy of cocaine abuse.