Pentobarbital is reported to inhibit ketamine-induced dopamine (DA) release in the rat nucleus accumbens. The accumbens is a part of the limbic dopaminergic system in the brain, and the dopaminergic neural activity of other components may also be sensitive to pentobarbital. We investigated the effect of pentobarbital administration on DA release in the striatum known as DA-rich basal ganglia, and the interaction between pentobarbital and L-DOPA, using in vivo microdialysis techniques. Male SD rats were implanted microdialysis probe into the right striatum. The probe was perfused with modified Ringer's solution and dialysate was directly injected to an HPLC. Every group of rats was consisted of six to seven animals. In the first experiment, rats were given saline, 25 and 50 mg kg(-1) pentobarbital. The second, each rat was given a local administration of 2 and 5 microg ml(-1) of L-DOPA with perfusate. Finally, other sets of rats were given 5 microg ml(-1) of L-DOPA and 25, 50, or 100 mg kg(-1) pentobarbital. Pentobarbital anaesthesia decreased the extracellular concentration of DA, and local administration of L-DOPA significantly increased DA concentration. Pretreatment with pentobarbital diminished the L-DOPA-induced DA increase. The results of the present investigation demonstrate that administration of pentobarbital might inhibit dopaminergic neural activity not only in the nucleus accumbens but also in the rat striatum. Pentobarbital anaesthesia antagonizes DA increase induced by L-DOPA and suggests the inhibition of metabolism of L-DOPA. The results of some animal experiments on dopaminergic activity under pentobarbital anaesthesia should be reconsidered.