Extracellular adenosine concentrations, evaluated by microdialysis in the striatum of young and aged rats, were 66.8 +/- 0.7 and 71.6 +/- 1.0 nM, respectively. The adenosine deaminase inhibitor EHNA (100 microM) increased the extracellular adenosine levels in young rats only. The adenosine kinase inhibitor iodotubercidin (10 microM) brought about the same increase in young and aged rats. In aged rats the resting adenosine outflow was reduced by the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist D-(-)-2-amino-7-phophonoheptanoic acid (D-AP7) (1 mM). It is concluded that extracellular levels of adenosine in the striatum are not affected by age, irrespective of the differences in adenosine deaminase activity and that the release of excitatory amino acids is responsible for much of resting adenosine outflow in aged but not in young rats.