Bilateral lesion of the ascending noradrenergic fibers in the dorsal bundle of adult Wistar rats with 4 micrograms 6-hydroxydopamine caused extensive depletion of norepinephrine in all forebrain areas, but led to a 54% increase in norepinephrine levels in the cerebellum. beta-Adrenergic receptor binding of [3H]dihydroalprenolol was significantly increased in all forebrain areas depleted of norepinephrine except hypothalamus. The increase in [3H]dihydroalprenolol binding was due to 62% and 34% increases in the number of beta-receptor sites in the frontal cerebral cortex and hippocampus respectively. Binding of [3H]WB-4101 to alpha 1-adrenergic receptors after dorsal bundle lesion was augmented generally to a lesser extent than beta-receptor binding, with significantly increased numbers of sites only in the frontal cortex (74%), thalamus (20%) and septum. Both alpha 1- and beta-receptor binding sites were reduced in number by 25-28% in the cerebellum of dorsal bundle-lesioned rats, whereas intraventricular administration of 6-hydroxydopamine to adult rats, which depletes norepinephrine in the cerebellum by 96%, increased cerebellar alpha 1- and beta-receptor binding by 33-40%. Binding of [3H]clonidine to forebrain alpha 2-adrenergic receptors was significantly elevated in the frontal cortex, but reduced in the amygdala and septum, after dorsal bundle lesion.