The impact of gonadal hormone withdrawal and estrogen therapy was investigated on the rat dopamine transporter (DAT). Short-term ovariectomized (ST-OVX, 2 weeks) and long-term ovariectomized (LT-OVX, 3 months) rats were treated or not with 17beta-estradiol (E2) for 2 weeks. DAT mRNA expression was measured by in situ hybridization in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) for the nigrostriatal pathway and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) for the mesolimbic pathway whereas DAT levels were assessed by [3H]GBR-12935 autoradiography, respectively, in the striatum and the nucleus accumbens. Ovariectomy produced a time-dependent decrease of the DAT density in the striatum and the nucleus accumbens and the E2 treatment did not significantly restore these DAT levels. Neither ST-OVX nor E2 treatment of the ST-OVX animals altered the DAT mRNA expression in the SNc and the VTA. However, LT-OVX animals showed increased DAT mRNA levels in these regions. E2 treatment of LT-OVX animals partially restored DAT mRNA levels in the SNc and left these levels unchanged in the VTA. These opposite variations induced by OVX on the DAT density and their mRNA levels suggest the involvement of non-genomic mechanisms, such as post-transcriptional events and/or membrane effects. Altered neurotransmission following gonadal hormone withdrawal may contribute to CNS disorders occurring at menopause in predisposed women. Ovariectomized rats constitute a useful model to study the changes in neurotransmitters balance occurring after menopause.