In vivo electrochemistry was used to investigate the mechanisms contributing to the clearance of locally applied dopamine in the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens of urethane-anesthetized rats. Chronoamperometric recordings were continuously made at 5 Hz using Nafion-coated carbon fiber electrodes. When a finite amount of dopamine was pressure-ejected at 5-min intervals from a micropipette adjacent to the electrode, transient and reproducible dopamine signals were detected. Substitution of L-alpha-methyldopamine, a substrate for the dopamine transporter but not for monoamine oxidase, for dopamine in the micropipette did not substantially alter the time course of the resulting signals. This indicates that metabolism of locally applied dopamine to 3,4-dihydroxy-phenylacetic acid is not responsible for the decline in the dopamine signal. Similarly, changing the applied oxidation potential from +0.45 to +0.80 V, which allows for detection of 3-methoxytyramine formed from dopamine via catechol-O-methyltransferase, had little effect on signal amplitude or time course. In contrast, lesioning the dopamine terminals with 6-hydroxydopamine, or locally applying the dopamine uptake inhibitors cocaine or nomifensine before pressure ejection of dopamine, significantly increased the amplitude and time course of the dopamine signals in both regions. The effects of cocaine and nomifensine were greater in the nucleus accumbens than in the dorsal striatum. Local application of lidocaine and procaine had no effect on the dopamine signals. Initial attempts at modeling resulted in curves that were in qualitative agreement with our experimental findings. Taken together, these data indicate that (1) uptake of dopamine by the neuronal dopamine transporter, rather than metabolism or diffusion, is the major mechanism for clearing locally applied dopamine from the extracellular milieu of the dorsal striatum and nucleus accumbens, and (2) the nucleus accumbens is more sensitive to the effects of inhibitors of dopamine uptake than is the dorsal striatum.