Exogenous and endogenous glutamate has been shown to evoke dopamine (DA) release in the striatum using both in vitro and in vivo techniques. We hypothesized that stimulation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) would phasically enhance striatal DA release via the glutamatergic corticostriatal pathway. To test this hypothesis, in vivo brain microdialysis was employed to measure extracellular concentrations of DA in the striatum during electrical stimulation of the PFC. Five rats were implanted with bilateral electrodes located in the medial PFC and dialysis probes in the dorsal striatum. Two days later the PFC of these awake, freely moving rats was stimulated first at 50 microA and then at 100 microA for 20 minutes at 2-hour intervals. Both currents significantly increased DA release. Extracellular DA rose rapidly during stimulation, peaked immediately afterward, and then slowly returned to baseline values. Dopamine reached 118% of baseline values with 50 microA stimulation and 138% with 100 microA stimulation. Histologic analysis using the fluorescent retrograde dye Fluoro Gold confirmed that cells projecting to the vicinity of the striatal dialysis probe originated in the vicinity of the PFC electrodes. These results provide direct evidence for phasic, excitatory modulation of striatal DA release by the PFC.