Convergent evidence suggests that the locomotor stimulant effect of nicotine is mediated by nicotinic receptors located on mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons. However, 6-hydroxydopamine lesions of the ventral tegmental area, resulting in substantial depletion of nucleus accumbens dopamine, were recently reported to have no effect on nicotine-induced locomotion. The present study sought to re-examine this issue. Rats received bilateral infusions of 6-hydroxydopamine or vehicle into the ventral tegmental area. Starting 3 weeks later, locomotor activity was tested after subcutaneous injection of saline, nicotine (0.4 mg/kg base), amphetamine (0.5 mg/kg) or scopolamine (0.5 mg/kg). In lesioned animals, the locomotor stimulant effects of nicotine and amphetamine were greatly reduced, whereas saline and scopolamine-induced activity was scarcely affected. Dopamine denervation was assessed by autoradiography, using [125I]RTI-55 to label plasmalemmal dopamine transporters. Labelling was reduced in nucleus accumbens core and shell and in the ventral tegmental area (by 87, 81 and 70%, respectively), and in nigrostriatal areas (52-77%). The locomotor stimulant effects of nicotine and amphetamine were correlated with residual [125I]RTI-55 labelling in mesolimbic and nigrostriatal regions (r=0.6-0.8). The present results provide further evidence that the locomotor stimulant effect of nicotine is dependent on the integrity of ascending dopamine neurons.