The uptake of 3H-labelled 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) norepinephrine ([3H]NE), and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethylamine ([ 3H]dopamine, [3H]DA) was studied in primary astrocyte cultures prepared from the cerebral cortex, corpus striatum, and hippocampal regions of neonatal rat brain. Na+-dependent uptake showed marked regional differences. For [3H]5-HT the magnitude of uptake was corpus striatum greater than or equal to cerebral cortex greater than hippocampus, whereas for [3H]NE the order was hippocampus greater than corpus striatum greater than cerebral cortex. For [3H]DA, only the hippocampal cultures showed significant Na+-dependent uptake. [3H]5-HT uptake was specifically inhibited by 10(-7) M fluoxetine whereas [3H]NE uptake was preferentially inhibited by 10(-7) M desipramine. These results may reflect regional brain specialization and/or different developmental patterns of high affinity uptake of serotonin and catecholamines by astrocytes in situ.