The effect of the systemic administration of a novel, orally active, catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor, Ro 40–7592, on the in vivo extracellular concentrations of dopamine (DA) and its metabolites, dihydroxy-phenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA), was studied by transcerebral microdialysis in the dorsal caudate of freely moving rats. Ro 40–7592 (at doses of 3.0, 7.5, and 30 mg/kg p.o.) elicited a marked and long-lasting reduction of HVA, and at doses of 7.5 and 30 mg/kg, an increase of DOPAC output, but it failed to increase DA output. The administration of L-β-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA, 20 and 50 mg/kg p.o.) with a DOPA decarboxylase inhibitor (benserazide) increased both HVA and DOPAC output, but failed to modify significantly extracellular DA concentrations in dialysates; in contrast, combined administration of L-DOPA + benserazide with Ro 40–7592 (30 mg/ kg p.o.) resulted in a significant increase in DA output. Ro 40–7592 prevented the L-DOPA-induced increase in HVA output and markedly potentiated the increase in DOPAC output. To investigate to what extent the increase in extra cellular DA concentrations was related to an exocitotic release, tetrodotoxin (TTX) sensitivity was tested. Addition of TTX to Ringer, although abolishing DA output in the absence of L-DOPA, partially reduced it in the presence of L-DOPA + Ro 40–7592 and even more so after L-DOPA without the COMT inhibitor. The results of the present study suggest that metabolism through COMT regulates extracellular concentrations of DA formed from exogenously administered L-DOPA but not of endogenous DA. Therefore, inhibition of COMT results in a potentiation of L-DOPA effects not only by inhibition of its peripheral metabolism (conversion to 3-methoxy-DOPA), but also by inhibition of the metabolism of its active metabolite, DA, in the brain.