The sigma receptor ligands, (+)-pentazocine and (+)-SKF 10,047, were found to increase dopamine metabolism (DOPAC, HVA) and release (3-MT) in both the striatum and olfactory tubercle of the rat, in a dose-dependent manner, after central as well as peripheral administration. The effect of (+)-SKF 10,047 was stereospecific. The increase in dopamine metabolism was not blocked by naloxone pretreatment, excluding an action via opioid receptors. More interestingly, this modulation was blocked by pretreatment with the NMDA receptor antagonist, CPP. Neither sigma ligand exhibited any affinity for D1 or D2 dopamine receptors or for NMDA, PCP or NMDA-associated glycine receptors. Sigma receptors thus appear to modulate dopaminergic function in both A9 and A10 projections. This modulation appears to involve a functional interaction with NMDA receptors or an NMDA-utilizing synapse downstream to neurons modulated by sigma receptors.