3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) affects both dopamine and serotonin (5-HT) systems. One of its acute actions is to cause a reversible fall in steady-state brain 5-HT concentrations. To investigate the chemical basis of this acute effect, the brain levels of the parent compound and three major metabolites, 3,4- 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine (DHMA) and 6-hydroxy-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (6-OHMDMA), were monitored, together with 5-HT levels, over a period of 6 hr in male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. The temporal relationships between drug concentrations of both stereoisomers and depletions were evaluated first. There was no correlation between the concentrations of the compounds measured and the extent of 5-HT depletion. Brain levels of MDMA and MDA were higher than plasma levels and exhibited a stereoselectivity in that (-)-MDMA and (+)-MDA levels were higher than those of enantiomers. The relationship between the dose of ((+)-MDMA and reduction in 5-HT levels was next investigated in SD male, SD female, and Dark Agouti (DA) female rats. These animals exhibit different capabilities of MDMA metabolism. There is a lower level of MDA, the N-demethylated metabolite of MDMA, in female SD rats than in males. Female DA rats are deficient in CYP2D isozymes, one of the enzymes responsible for demethylenation of MDMA to DHMA at pharmacological concentrations of substrate. there was a significant accuulation of MDMA in the brain and plasma of DA rats, but their 5-HT depletion was somewhat attenuated. The results indicated that MDMA ++ was apparently not the single, causative agent for the acute 5-HT depletion, which may also involve a metabolite formed by CYP2D.