Using [14C]2-deoxyglucose autoradiography, we have studied the effects of systemically administered L-DOPA (10, 25 and 50 mg/kg s.c.) on regional cerebral glucose utilization (RCGU) in rats with unilateral substantia nigra lesions. In comparison with lesioned rats treated with saline, the lesioned-DOPA treated rats demonstrated contralateral turning and RCGU changes in both ipsilateral and contralateral brain regions. L-DOPA treatment markedly increased RCGU in the ipsilateral entopeduncular nucleus (EP) and substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr), cell groups that receive direct striatal input and function as major outflow pathways of corpus striatal activity. In contrast, L-DOPA did not alter RCGU in the globus pallidus (GP), supporting the thesis that dopamine (DA) has different effects on striatal outflow to the GP compared with outflow to both the EP and SNr. Moderate RCGU increases were observed in the ipsilateral subthalamic nucleus (STN), lateral midbrain reticular formation (LMRF), and deep layers of the superior colliculus (DLSC), all regions which receive direct projections from the GP, EP or SNr. L-DOPA decreased RCGU in the ipsilateral lateral habenular nucleus (LHN) and increased RCGU in the contralateral LHN, changes that we suggest are mediated via altered neuronal activity in the striatum and EP. The results suggest that systemically administered L-DOPA, after conversion to DA in the brain, interacts with supersensitive DA receptors in the DA-depleted striatum to selectively activate efferent pathways. Furthermore, the data suggest that the LMRF and DLSC are functionally activated during L-DOPA induced turning and support the hypothesis that nigroreticular and nigrocollicular projections are of physiologic significance in the expression of striatal activity.