Using an in vitro superfusion method it was found that nucleus caudatus slices of 8- and 12-week-old spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) release significantly less [3H]dopamine and [14C]acetylcholine upon electrical stimulation than do slices of normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY) at all frequencies tested. At 4 weeks similar trends were seen, but the difference in [14C]acetylcholine release was not significant. That the difference in release of dopamine was already present prior to the onset of the development of hypertension, i.e. at the age of 4 weeks, indicates that it is probably not a consequence of, but rather associated with the development of hypertension. Addition of the dopamine uptake inhibitor nomifensine to the superfusion medium caused an increase in the net release of [3H]dopamine by inhibiting re-uptake, but did not influence the difference in release between SHR and WKY. The release of labelled dopamine and acetylcholine was inhibited in the presence of the dopamine D2 receptor agonist quinpirole. The concentration-response curve for the inhibition of the release of [3H]dopamine, but not that of [14C]acetylcholine, by quinpirole was shifted to the left and the maximum inhibition was higher for SHR than for WKY. These results suggest that the difference in stimulus-evoked release of labelled dopamine in the nucleus caudatus is not the consequence of changes in the uptake mechanism of dopamine, but is associated with differences between SHR and WKY in dopamine D2 autoreceptor regulation.