We examined the role of the dopamine projection to the medial prefrontal cortex in amphetamine-induced sensitization of meso-nucleus accumbens dopamine function. In the first experiment, male rats received bilateral microinfusions either of 6-hydroxydopamine or of vehicle (sham) into prefrontal cortex. Six weeks later animals from both groups were injected once daily for 5 consecutive days with either amphetamine or saline. Two days after the last daily injection, all the animals were each implanted with a voltammetric electrode into nucleus accumbens. Increases in dopamine-dependent electrochemical signals elicited by amphetamine were monitored 3-4 days later using chronoamperometry. The results showed that amphetamine stimulates dopamine efflux to a greater extent in the nucleus accumbens of lesioned than of sham-lesioned animals. Furthermore, of the animals with prefrontal cortical lesions, amphetamine-induced dopamine efflux was greater in animals previously treated with the drug than in animals with no prior drug experience. In a second experiment, sensitization to the acute locomotor-stimulant effect of amphetamine was examined in prefrontal cortex-lesioned and sham-lesioned animals. The locomotor response of all animals to a test dose of amphetamine was first monitored and then on each of the subsequent 5 days, lesioned and sham-lesioned animals received an injection either of amphetamine or of saline. Five and then 13 days later, the locomotor response of all animals to the test dose of amphetamine was again measured. The results of this study showed that prefrontal cortex-lesioned animals were less responsive to the first amphetamine injection than sham-lesioned animals. However, after repeated daily administration, the acute locomotor response of lesioned animals to amphetamine was significantly greater than that of sham-lesioned animals with the same drug history. These findings are generally consistent with evidence from other sources suggesting that the dopamine input to medial prefrontal cortex exerts an indirect, inhibitory influence on mesolimbic dopamine transmission. They also suggest that long-term changes to a dopamine-sensitive mechanism in prefrontal cortex may contribute to the development of stimulant-induced sensitization of mesolimbic dopamine function.