The antipsychotic drug risperidone shows high affinity for both central serotonin (5-HT)2A and dopamine (DA)-D2 receptors in vivo. By employing microdialysis in freely moving rats, the effects of acute risperidone administration on regional brain DA and 5-HT release and metabolism were compared with the corresponding effects of the atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine as well as amperozide, the selective DA-D2 receptor antagonist raclopride and the selective 5-HT2A/5-HT2C receptor antagonist ritanserin. Risperidone (0.2 or 2.0 mg/kg, SC) was found to increase DA release and metabolism to about the same extent in three major projection areas of the mesotelencephalic dopaminergic system, i.e. the nucleus accumbens (NAC), the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC) and the lateral striatum (STR). In contrast, clozapine and amperozide (both 10.0 mg/kg, SC), as well as raclopride (2.0 mg/kg, SC), were all found differentially to affect DA release and metabolism in the three projections areas. Specifically, clozapine and amperozide enhanced DA release in the MPC to a greater extent than in the NAC or the STR, whereas raclopride instead preferentially increased DA release in the NAC and the STR but not in the MPC. Ritanserin (3.0 mg/kg, SC) did not exert any major effects on DA metabolism in the three areas studied. In contrast to the regionally rather homogenous activation of brain DA systems caused by risperidone, the drug was found to enhance brain 5-HT metabolism preferentially in the MPC, as indicated by the elevated extracellular concentration of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in this region. A similar elevation of the 5-HIAA level in the MPC was observed after amperozide and, to some extent, after clozapine and ritanserin administration. The risperidone-induced (2.0 mg/kg, SC) elevation of 5-HIAA concentrations in the frontal cortex was found to be paralleled by an increased 5-HT release in this brain area. Consequently, our findings demonstrate a pharmacological profile of risperidone, as reflected in brain DA metabolism, in between that of clozapine and the DA-D2 antagonists. The preferential activation of 5-HT release and metabolism in frontal cortical areas might be of particular relevance for the ameliorating effect of risperidone on negative symptoms in schizophrenia, especially when associated with depression.