Although increases in dopamine transmission in the brain are clearly involved in the reinstatement of cocaine seeking, the role of nucleus accumbens dopamine in cocaine priming-induced reinstatement remains controversial. The goal of these experiments was to evaluate the relative contributions of D1-like and D2-like dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens core and shell in the reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behaviour. Initially, rats were trained to press a lever for cocaine (0.25 mg, i.v.) using a fixed-ratio 5 (FR5) schedule of reinforcement. Responding was then extinguished by substituting saline for cocaine. During the reinstatement phase, subtype-specific dopamine receptor agonists were microinjected into the nucleus accumbens core or medial shell in order to assess their ability to induce cocaine seeking. Administration of the D1/D5 dopamine receptor agonist SKF-81297 (1.0 microg) into the nucleus accumbens shell, but not core, reinstated drug-seeking behaviour. Similarly, microinjection of quinpirole (3.0 microg), a D2/D3 dopamine receptor agonist, into the nucleus accumbens shell and not core reinstated drug-seeking behaviour. In contrast, administration of the D3- or D4-preferring dopamine receptor agonists PD 128,907 (1.5 and 3.0 microg) and PD 168,077 (0.3 and 3.0 microg), respectively, did not promote reinstatement when administered into either the core or the shell. Taken together, these results indicate that activation of D1/D5 or D2 dopamine receptors, in the limbic shell subregion of the nucleus accumbens but not the basal ganglia-orientated accumbens core, promotes the reinstatement of cocaine-seeking behaviour.