In the adult mammalian brain, neural stem cells persist in the subventricular zone (SVZ) where dopamine D3 receptors are expressed. Here, we demonstrate that addition of 1 microm apomorphine increases cell numbers in post-natal SVZ cell cultures. This effect was prevented by a co-treatment with haloperidol, sulpiride or U-99194A, a D3-preferring antagonist, and mimicked by the dopamine D3 receptor selective agonist 7-hydroxy-dipropylaminotetralin (7-OH-DPAT). EC50 values were 4.04 +/- 1.54 nm for apomorphine and 0.63 +/- 0.13 nm for 7-OH-DPAT, which fits the pharmacological profile of the D3 receptor. D3 receptors were detected in SVZ cells by RT-PCR and immunocytochemistry. D3 receptors were expressed in numerous beta-III tubulin immunopositive cells. The fraction of apoptotic nuclei remained unchanged following apomorphine treatment, thus ruling out any possible effect on cell survival. In contrast, proliferation was increased as both the proportion of nuclei incorporating bromo-deoxyuridine and the expression of the cell division marker cyclin D1 were enhanced. These findings provide support for a regulatory role of dopamine over cellular dynamics in post-natal SVZ.