An in vitro perifusion system was used to investigate GnRH release from adult human hypothalami in response to dopamine (DA) and the DA receptor antagonist haloperidol (HAL). Administration of a 1-microM pulse of DA consistently elicited a mean +/- SE 218 +/- 59% increase (P less than 0.05; n = 5) in GnRH release, whereas 1 microM HAL had no effect. Administration of 1 microM DA during three perifusions in which 1 microM HAL was added to the medium failed to alter basal GnRH release. In contrast, DA did evoke an acute 98 +/- 39% increase (P less than 0.06) in GnRH release during three matching perifusions with medium containing the alpha-adrenergic antagonist phentolamine. These studies demonstrate that DA can stimulate in vitro release of GnRH from the adult human hypothalamus by a DA receptor-mediated mechanism.