Behavioral and neurochemical cross-sensitization between cocaine and stress was examined. The effects of stress and cocaine on extracellular levels of dopamine and its metabolites, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA), were measured by in vivo microdialysis in the rostral ventral striatum, including the nucleus accumbens. Pretreatment with a daily 20 min footshock stress (0.45 mA/200 ms/s) for 5 days enhanced the cocaine-induced increase in extracellular dopamine levels in shock compared to sham shock-pretreated rats. The motor stimulant response to acute cocaine was also augmented in shock-pretreated rats. There was a slight but significant decrease in the levels of DOPAC and HVA in both groups following cocaine but no differences between shock and sham shock animals. In contrast, in the converse experiment, pretreatment with daily cocaine (15 mg/kg, i.p.) for 5 days did not significantly alter the stress-induced levels of extracellular dopamine compared to controls. The levels of DOPAC and HVA were not different between cocaine- and saline-pretreated groups although there was a trend towards enhanced metabolite levels in cocaine-pretreated animals. These data in part support a role for enhanced dopamine neutrotransmission in mediating behavioral cross-sensitization between psychostimulants and stress.