Like several drugs of abuse, nicotine increase dopamine (DA) release in the nucleus accumbens (NAC). In the present study, the effects of acute and chronic nicotine on DA output in two subdivisions of the NAC, the core and the shell, which are largely associated with motor control and limbic functions, respectively, were examined by means of in vivo differential normal pulse voltammetry in anesthetized, pargyline-treated rats. In the first experiment, acute administration of nicotine (25, 50 and 100 micrograms/kg, cumulative doses; i.v.) was found to increase DA levels in the NACshell to 163% of baseline, whereas DA output in the NACcore was not significantly affected. In the second experiment, animals were pretreated with twelve daily injections of saline or nicotine (0.5 mg/kg, i.p.); about 24 hours after the last injection, the animals were challenged with nicotine (50 micrograms/kg and 100 micrograms/kg, cumulative doses; i.v.). Under these conditions, nicotine increased DA output in the NACshell in saline-pretreated animals to 248% and in nicotine-pretreated rats to 180%. Also, nicotine increased DA output in the NACcore in saline-pretreated animals to 185%, whereas no significant effect was observed in nicotine-pretreated rats. The results of the present experiments indicate (i) that acutely administered nicotine or nicotine challenge in chronically pretreated animals with either saline or nicotine consistently increases DA release to a greater extent in the NACshell than in the NACcore, and (ii) that chronic nicotine pretreatment reduces the stimulatory-action of nicotine on DA output in either the shell or the core subdivision of the NAC.