Tyrosine administration elevates striatal levels of dopamine metabolites in animals given treatments that accelerate nigrostriatal firing, but not in untreated rats. We examined the possibility that the amino acid might actually enhance dopamine release in untreated animals, but that the technique of measuring striatal dopamine metabolism was too insensitive to demonstrate such an effect. Dopamine release was assessed directly, using brain microdialysis of striatal extracellular fluid. Tyrosine administration (50-200 mg/kg IP) did indeed cause a dose related increase in extracellular fluid dopamine levels with minor elevations in levels of DOPAC and HVA, its major metabolites, which were not dose-related. The rise in dopamine was short-lived, suggesting that receptor-mediated feedback mechanisms responded to the increased dopamine release by diminishing neuronal firing or sensitivity to tyrosine. These observations indicate that measurement of changes in striatal DOPAC and HVA, if negative, need not rule out increases in nigrostriatal dopamine release.