Membrane phospholipids like phosphatidylcholine (PC) are required for cellular growth and repair, and specifically for synaptic function. PC synthesis is controlled by cellular levels of its precursor, cytidine-5'-diphosphate choline (CDP-choline), which is produced from cytidine triphosphate (CTP) and phosphocholine. In rat PC12 cells exogenous uridine was shown to elevate intracellular CDP-choline levels, by promoting the synthesis of uridine triphosphate (UTP), which was partly converted to CTP. In such cells uridine also enhanced the neurite outgrowth produced by nerve growth factor (NGF). The present study assessed the effect of dietary supplementation with uridine-5'-monophosphate disodium (UMP-2Na+, an additive in infant milk formulas) on striatal dopamine (DA) release in aged rats. Male Fischer 344 rats consumed either a control diet or one fortified with 2.5% UMP for 6 wk, ad libitum. In vivo microdialysis was then used to measure spontaneous and potassium (K+)-evoked DA release in the right striatum. Potassium (K+)-evoked DA release was significantly greater among UMP-treated rats, i.e., 341+/-21% of basal levels vs. 283+/-9% of basal levels in control rats (p<0.05); basal DA release was unchanged. In general, each animal's K+-evoked DA release correlated with its striatal DA content, measured postmortem. The levels of neurofilament-70 and neurofilament-M proteins, biomarkers of neurite outgrowth, increased to 182+/-25% (p<0.05) and 221+/-34% (p<0.01) of control values, respectively, with UMP consumption. Hence, UMP treatment not only enhances membrane phosphatide production but also can modulate two membrane-dependent processes, neurotransmitter release and neurite outgrowth, in vivo.