Chronic nicotine (0.8 mg/kg by daily subcutaneous injection) over a 7 to 28-day period was found to increase the activity of tyrosine hydroxylase in predominantly noradrenergically innervated regions but not in dopaminergic projection areas. Increases in tyrosine hydroxylase activity were observed in dopaminergic cell body regions only after nicotine treatment for 3 to 5 days. The increase in tyrosine hydroxylase activity in noradrenergic neurones was evident first in the cell bodies in the locus coeruleus from 3 to 7 days, reaching 223% of control activities, and was followed by increases of up to 205% in the terminals up to 3 weeks later. It was then established that nicotine for 7 days was sufficient to increase the activity of the enzyme to the same extent in the terminals at 21 days even without further nicotine administration. This is consistent with axonal transport preceded by induction of the enzyme in noradrenergic cell bodies, whereas "delayed activation" might account for the transient effect seen in dopaminergic cell body regions. The response in the locus coeruleus to nicotine for 7 days was completely blocked by daily preinjection with mecamylamine but not with hexamethonium, which is consistent with the effect of nicotine on tyrosine hydroxylase being mediated by central nicotinic receptors.