Evidence exists for a negative correlation between Parkinson's disease and smoking. The present and previous studies indicate that nicotine treatment can markedly alter the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced neurotoxicity in the black mouse based on biochemical determinations of dopamine (DA), 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA) levels in neostriatum and substantia nigra 2 weeks after MPTP injection. Acute intermittent treatment with (-)nicotine starting 10 min before the MPTP injection partly protected against MPTP-induced neurotoxicity in the neostriatum and substantia nigra. Also, a partial protection was observed in the substantia nigra when (-)nicotine was given together with MPTP in an acute intermittent treatment schedule. Conversely, chronic infusion of (-)nicotine via minipumps produced a dose-related enhancement of MPTP-induced DA neurotoxicity in the neostriatum. It is suggested that the protective activity of nicotine in the MPTP model is related to a blockade of MPP+ uptake into the DA cells via increased DA release. Conversely, the nicotine enhancement of MPTP-induced DA toxicity is suggested to be caused by a failure of the nicotinic cholinoceptors to desensitize to the chronic (-)nicotine exposure, leading to increased chronic influx of Na+ and Ca2+ ions via the ion channels of the nicotinic cholinoceptors located on the DA neurons with associated increased Ca ion toxicity and increased energy demands.