Using double in situ hybridization, we found extensive coexpression of dopamine D1 and D3 receptor (D1R and D3R) mRNAs in neurons of the island of Calleja major (ICjM) and ventromedial shell of nucleus accumbens (ShV), respectively. Thus, at least 79 and 63% of D3R mRNA-expressing neurons in ICjM and ShV also expressed the D1R mRNA. Coexpression of D1R and D3R mRNAs was found to occur in substance P (SP) mRNA-expressing neurons in both areas, suggesting SP mRNA as a marker of the activity of coexpressing neurons. Administration of SKF 38393, a D1R receptor agonist, increased c-fos mRNA in ICjM, whereas administration of quinpirole, a D2R/D3R agonist, decreased it; SCH 23390, a D1R antagonist and nafadotride, a preferential D3R antagonist, given alone, had effects opposite to those of the corresponding agonists. These data indicate that basal c-fos expression in ICjM is maintained by endogenous dopamine acting tonically upon two receptor subtypes subserving opposite effects on the same cell. However, in ShV, whereas SKF 38393 also increased c-fos mRNA, quinpirole had no effect, a difference presumably reflecting the lower fraction of neurons coexpressing D1R and D3R in this area. In contrast, in ShV from reserpine-treated rats, SKF 38393 increased SP mRNA and quinpirole potentiated this effect. These contrasting interactions of D1R- and D3R-mediated signalling events, i.e. in either opposite or synergistic directions, most likely occurring at the single cell level, may serve to increase the dopamine response threshold of the target cells in ICjM and to maintain a strong tonic activity of ShV neurons.