In contrast to estrogen in female rats, testosterone in male rats may decrease cholinergic activity in the brain, thereby attenuating behaviors mediated by the cholinergic system. To investigate this possibility, the interactive effects of the gonadal hormones and donepezil, an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor, on the responding of male rats were examined under a multiple schedule of repeated acquisition and performance of response sequences and on AChE activity in specific brain regions. Donepezil dose-effect curves (0.56-10 mg/kg) were determined in males that were gonadally intact, gonadectomized (GX), GX with testosterone replacement (GX+T) or GX with estradiol replacement (GX+E). In all four groups, donepezil produced dose-dependent rate-decreasing and error-increasing effects in the acquisition and performance components. However, disruptions of response rate and accuracy in both components occurred at lower doses in GX and GX+E males than in intact males. The GX+E males also had the highest percentage of errors under control (saline) conditions in the acquisition components. In terms of AChE activity, GX males had higher levels in the prefrontal cortex, striatum and hippocampus, but lower levels in the midbrain, compared with intact males; hypothalamic and cortical levels were comparable for the GX and intact groups. Together, these results in male rats indicate that the potency of donepezil's disruptive effects on the responding under a complex operant procedure requiring learning and performance of response sequences depends upon the gonadal hormone status, and that the effects of testosterone on cholinergic activity vary among brain regions.