In order to determine whether repeated cocaine administration produced persistent changes in dopamine (DA) receptor binding and release consistent with behavioral sensitization, rats were treated with either cocaine (25 mg/kg ip) or saline twice daily for 14 consecutive days followed by a 3-d withdrawal period. The DA transporter site was assayed using [3H]GBR 12935, whereas D1 and D2 sites were assayed using [3H]SCH 23390 and [3H]spiperone, respectively. The density (Bmax) of the DA transporter binding sites in the ST of the cocaine-treated group increased significantly (p < 0.05) over controls 3 d after the last injection, whereas the density of striatal D1 and D2 binding sites remained unchanged. The DA transporter in the nucleus accumbens (NA) was also studied with [3H]GBR 12935 and was unchanged following drug treatment. D1 and D2 binding parameters for the NA were not determined in this study. Furthermore, cocaine administration did not affect the affinities (Kd) of the radioligands used to label the transporter, D1, or D2 sites in any of the studies performed. In addition, striatal DA release was measured using in vivo microdialysis in anesthetized rats. Linear regression analysis on maximal decreases in DA release after apomorphine (0.02, 0.2, and 2.0 mg/kg sc) injection showed no difference in the functional capacity of the ST to modulate DA transmission between control and treated groups. Moreover, animals pretreated with cocaine showed a significant (p < 0.01) decrease in locomotor activity (LA) after a presynaptic, autoregulating dose of apomorphine (0.03 mg/kg sc) was given. These results suggests that the effects seen after repeated exposure to cocaine may be regulated, in part, by changes in striatal DA transporter binding site densities and not necessarily by DA-releasing mechanisms or D1 and D2 receptor modification.