In vivo microdialysis has been used to study the acute effects of antipsychotic drugs on the extracellular level of dopamine from the nucleus accumbens, striatum, and prefrontal cortex of the rat. (-)-Sulpiride (20, 50, and 100 mg/kg i.v.) and haloperidol (0.1 and 0.5 mg/kg i.v.) enhanced the outflow of dopamine in the striatum and nucleus accumbens. In the medial prefrontal cortex, (-)-sulpiride at all doses tested did not significantly affect the extracellular level of dopamine. The effect of haloperidol was also attenuated in the medial prefrontal cortex; 0.1 mg/kg did not increase the outflow of dopamine and the effect of 0.5 mg/kg haloperidol was of shorter duration in the prefrontal cortex than that observed in striatum and nucleus accumbens. The atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine (5 and 10 mg/kg) increased the extracellular concentration of dopamine in all three regions. In contrast to the effects of sulpiride and haloperidol, that of clozapine in the medial prefrontal cortex was profound. These data suggest that different classes of antipsychotic drugs may have distinct effects on the release of dopamine from the nigrostriatal, mesolimbic, and mesocortical terminals.