We have previously shown that systemic injection of (-)nicotine produces a selective up-regulation of fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2 mRNA levels in rat striatum. Because (-)nicotine can increase striatal release of dopamine and glutamate, in the present study we have investigated the contribution of these neurotransmitters in the modulation of FGF-2 expression. We found that coinjection of dopaminergic D1 (SCH23390) or D2 (haloperidol) receptor antagonists prevents nicotine-induced elevation of FGF-2 expression. However, injection of the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801 produced a significant increment of FGF-2 mRNA and protein levels in rat striatum similar to the effect produced by (-)nicotine alone. Interestingly this effect of MK-801 could also be prevented by D1 or D2 receptor antagonists, suggesting that an elevation of dopamine levels may be required for the regulation of the trophic molecule. Accordingly we found that the non-selective dopaminergic agonist apomorphine can similarly increase striatal FGF-2 mRNA levels. Despite the observation that both D1 and D2 receptors appear to contribute to the modulation of FGF-2 expression, only a direct activation of D2 receptors, through quinpirole administration, was able to mimic the effect of apomorphine. On the basis of FGF-2 neurotrophic activity, these results suggest that direct or indirect activation of dopaminergic system can be neuroprotective and might reduce cell vulnerability in degenerative disorders.