The psychotomimetic agent, methylenedioxymethamphetamine, produced a rapid, persistent and dose-dependent reduction in cortical tryptophan hydroxylase activity when administered acutely to rats. This effect did not occur in vitro and did not require N-demethylase activity in the whole animal. Kinetic analysis revealed the loss of enzyme activity to be due to an alteration in Vmax with no change in the affinity of the enzyme for either its cofactor or substrate. Coadministration of the serotonin (5-HT) uptake inhibitor, citalopram, only partially antagonized the loss of tryptophan hydroxylase activity 3 hr after methylenedioxymethamphetamine, but completely prevented the loss of cortical 5-HT. Recovery of enzyme activity did occur by 1 week if the neurotoxic effect of methylenedioxymethamphetamine was blocked by fluoxetine. The effect of methylenedioxymethamphetamine on 5-HT synthesis was not affected by pretreatment with alpha-methyl-p-tyrosine, reserpine or yohimbine. Ketanserine and methiothepin, 5-HT receptor antagonists, did partially block the methylenedioxymethamphetamine-induced loss of tryptophan hydroxylase activity, suggesting a possible role for neurotransmitter release in the acute effects of the drug on enzyme activity.