Quantitative and conventional microdialysis were used to investigate the effects of constitutive deletion of the prodynorphin gene on basal dopamine (DA) dynamics in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and the responsiveness of DA neurons to an acute cocaine challenge. Saline- and cocaine-evoked locomotor activity were also assessed. Quantitative microdialysis revealed that basal extracellular DA levels were decreased, while the DA extraction fraction, an indirect measure of DA uptake, was unchanged in dynorphin (DYN) knockout (KO) mice. The ability of cocaine to increase NAc DA levels was reduced in KO. Similarly, cocaine-evoked locomotor activity was decreased in KO. The selective kappa opioid receptor agonist U-69593 decreased NAc dialysate DA levels in wildtype mice and this effect was enhanced in KO. Administration of the selective kappa opioid receptor (KOPr) antagonist nor-binaltorphimine to KO mice attenuated the decrease in cocaine-induced DA levels. However, it was ineffective in altering the decreased locomotor response to cocaine. These studies demonstrate that constitutive deletion of prodynorphin is associated with a reduction of extracellular NAc DA levels and a decreased responsiveness to acute cocaine. Data regarding the effects of U-69593 and nor-binaltorphimine in KO suggest that the kappa opioid receptor is up-regulated as a consequence of prodynorphin gene deletion and that this adaptation underlies the decrease in basal DA dynamics and cocaine-evoked DA levels observed in DYN KO mice. These findings suggest that the phenotype of DYN KO mice is not solely due to loss of endogenous opioid peptide but also reflects developmental compensations that occur at the level of the opioid receptor.