In contrast to other excitotoxins, such as kainic acid, quinolinic acid (QA) may spare a specific population of striatal neurons that is also spared in Huntington's disease (HD). Although several histological and biochemical experiments support the use of QA as a model for HD, to date no behavioral experiments have been performed to examine the suitability of this model. The present study explored the behavioral effects of bilateral intrastriatal microinjections of four doses (75, 150, 225, 300 nmol) of QA in the male rat. Using a multidimensional analysis of spontaneous locomotion (Digiscan activity) and a record of metabolic indicators, such as weight loss, a dose-dependent effect was found. The 75-nmol dose had no significant effect on locomotion or feeding behavior. In contrast, the 150- and 225-nmol doses induced hyperactivity and weight loss, whereas the 300-nmol dose was lethal. The results obtained suggest that striatal injections of 150-225 nmol of QA induce behavioral deficits qualitatively similar though quantitatively less than those which are seen after similar injection of 3 nmol of kainic acid and which have been reported to be comparable to the symptomatology of HD. Together with QA's possible greater histological selectivity, the present results support the use of QA-induced striatal lesions as a behavioral model of Huntington's disease.