The nature of methamphetamine-induced rapid and transient decreases in dopamine transporter activity was investigated. Regional specificity was demonstrated, since [3H]dopamine uptake was decreased in synaptosomes prepared from the striatum, but not nucleus accumbens, of methamphetamine-treated rats. Differences among effects on dopamine transporter activity and ligand binding were also observed, since a single methamphetamine administration decreased [3H]dopamine uptake without altering [3H]WIN35428 ([3H](-)-2-beta-carbomethoxy-3-beta-(4-fluorophenyl)tropane 1,5-naphthalenedisulfonate) binding in synaptosomes prepared 1 h after injection. Moreover, multiple methamphetamine injections caused a greater decrease in [3H]dopamine uptake than [3H]WIN35428 binding in synaptosomes prepared I h after dosing. Finally, decreases in [3H]dopamine uptake, but not [3H]WIN35428 binding, were partially reversed 24 h after multiple methamphetamine injections. Western blotting indicated that saline- and methamphetamine-affected dopamine transporters co-migrated on sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) gels at approximately 80 kDa, and that acute, methamphetamine-induced decreases in [3H]dopamine uptake were not due to loss of dopamine transporter protein. These findings demonstrate heretofore-uncharacterized features of the acute effect of methamphetamine on dopamine transporters.