(S)-(+)- and (R)-(-)-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) were metabolized in vitro by rat liver microsomes via N-demethylation to 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). Whereas no difference was found in the biotransformation of the two enantiomers in the male rat or in the phenobarbital (PB) treated animals of either sex, more than twice as much MDA was formed from (S)-(+)- than from (R)-(-)-MDMA in the untreated female rat. Although 3-methylcholanthrene (3MC) pretreated rat liver microsomes were less active than those from the untreated rats of the same sex, they formed more MDA from (+)- than from (-)-MDMA. The enantioselective metabolism thus appears to be associated with the relative abundance of individual cytochrome P-450 isozymes. (S)-(+)- and (R)-(-)-MDMA.HCl (20 mg/kg) were about equipotent in depleting serotonin (5-HT) levels in the frontal cortex at 3 hrs and 1 wk following oral administration to female rats. Pretreatment of rats with SKF-525A attenuated and that with PB enhanced the 5-HT depleting potential of either isomer at 3 hrs. The 5-HT depleting potency of (+)-MDMA was significantly greater than that of its (-)-antipode at 3 hr in PB pretreated, but not in SKF-525A pretreated animals. The results suggest that the neurochemical effects of MDMA are caused by the formation of an active metabolite in vivo, and since both enantiomers were N-demethylated in vitro to approximately the same extent by PB pretreated rat liver microsomes, the active metabolite may be other than MDA.