In the striatum, adenosine A2A and dopamine D1 receptors are segregated in striatopallidal and striatonigral projection neurons, respectively. In this study, we have examined the effects of activating adenosine A2A and dopamine D1 receptors on the state of phosphorylation of DARPP-32 (dopamine- and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein of mol. wt 32,000), a potent endogenous regulator of protein phosphatase-1 that is highly expressed in striatal medium-sized spiny neurons. In rat striatal slices, the D1 receptor agonist SKF 81297 and the A2A receptor agonist CGS 21680 transiently increased the levels of phosphorylated DARPP-32 in a concentration-dependent manner. In the same preparation, the two agonists were also able to induce a significant increase in cyclic AMP formation. When striatal slices were incubated with a combination of CGS 21680 and SKF 81297, the effects of the two agonists on both DARPP-32 phosphorylation and cyclic AMP formation were additive. The maximal effects of SKF 81297 and CGS 21680 on DARPP-32 phosphorylation were of similar magnitude, and were completely abolished by the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitor, Rp-cAMPS. The present results show that DARPP-32 phosphorylation in the striatum is stimulated by adenosine, acting on A2A receptors, and dopamine, acting on D1 receptors, and that cyclic AMP is the mediator in both cases. Our data also suggest that dopamine and adenosine regulate the state of phosphorylation of DARPP-32 in distinct sub-populations of medium-sized spiny neurons expressing dopamine D1 and adenosine A2A receptors, respectively.