Steady-state concentrations of apomorphine enantiomers were measured in the extracellular fluid collected from rat brain striatum by microdialysis. The free and total concentrations of both enantiomers were also measured in plasma as well as the total concentrations in different brain regions (striatum, cortex and cerebellum). We noticed no regional difference in the total concentrations of the two enantiomers. The extracellular concentrations were much lower, amounting to 8% for R(-)-apomorphine and 4% for S(+)-apomorphine, of the total brain tissue concentrations. The microdialysis samples contained 12 times more (R(-)-apomorphine and 5 times more S(+)-apomorphine than the free apomorphine measured in plasma. The extracellular concentrations of R(-)-apomorphine (129 +/- 20 pmol/ml) were significantly higher (P = 0.001, n = 6), than those of S(+)-apomorphine (70 +/- 10 pmol/ml). These results indicate that both enantiomers of apomorphine concentrate equally in brain cells, and that a stereoselective uptake system could operate for R(-)-apomorphine at the blood-brain barrier level.