Male, Lewis rats were treated intravenously for 2 weeks with saline or cocaine using a dose and injection schedule that is similar to the doses and patterns of cocaine intake in self-administration studies. Ten days after cessation of treatment, dopamine transporter binding levels were decreased in the nucleus accumbens but not in the striatum. In situ hybridization studies revealed decreases in dopamine transporter mRNA that were restricted to cells of the interfascicular and caudal linear nuclei; these dopaminergic cell groups, found in the ventral tegmentum, project to the nucleus accumbens and other limbic areas. Other dopaminergic cell groups in midbrain which project mainly to other areas did not show a decrease in mRNA. These results indicate that gene expression can be altered many days after withdrawal from cocaine, and provide an example of transporter regulation by a change in gene expression.