The present study examined whether the prefrontal cortex (PFC) exerts a tonic control over the basal release of dopamine in the limbic striatum and whether this control is mediated by glutamatergic afferents to the dopamine cell body or terminal regions. Using intracerebral microdialysis in freely moving rats, it was demonstrated that application of tetrodotoxin in the contralateral PFC significantly decreased the release of dopamine in the medial striatum. Conversely, blockade of the tonic inhibitory GABAergic input in the PFC with bicuculline increased the release of dopamine in the medial striatum. Application of excitatory amino acid receptor antagonists into the striatum, while bicuculline was perfused in the PFC, did not affect the bicuculline-evoked dopamine increase in the striatum. However, infusion of tetrodotoxin or excitatory amino acid receptor antagonists into the ventral tegmental area, a region containing dopamine cell bodies that project to the medial striatum, blocked the stimulation of striatal dopamine release induced by infusion of bicuculline into the PFC. These data demonstrate that the basal output of dopamine terminals in the medial striatum is under a tonic excitatory control of the PFC. Furthermore, this control occurs primarily through glutamatergic projections to the dopamine cell body area rather than the terminal regions.