Repeated methamphetamine (METH) administration to animals can result in long-lasting decreases in striatal dopamine (DA) release and content. Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has pronounced effects on dopaminergic systems in vivo, including neuroprotective effects against METH. The present experiments were designed to examine the ability of GDNF to reverse, or accelerate recovery from, METH-induced alterations in striatal DA release. Male Fischer-344 rats were administered METH (5 mg/kg, s.c.) or saline 4 times in one day at 2-hour intervals. Seven days later the animals were anesthetized and given a single injection of 10 microg GDNF, or vehicle, into the right striatum. Three weeks later microdialysis experiments were carried out in both the right and left striata to examine basal and evoked levels of DA and its metabolites 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA). In animals treated with METH followed by vehicle 7 days later, there were significant reductions in potassium- and amphetamine-evoked overflow of DA, and in basal levels of DOPAC and HVA, compared to control animals. In rats treated with METH followed 7 days later with GDNF, there were significant increases in potassium- and amphetamine-evoked overflow of DA on the right, GDNF-treated, side of the brain compared to the left side. Basal levels of DOPAC and HVA were also elevated on the GDNF-treated side of the brain. These results suggest that GDNF can accelerate recovery of dopaminergic release processes in the striatum of rats treated with neurotoxic doses of METH.