Regional differences in the kinetics and pharmacological inhibition of dopamine uptake were investigated with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in both the intact rat brain and a brain slice preparation. The regions compared were the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus, caudate-putamen, and nucleus accumbens. The frequency dependence of dopamine efflux evoked in vivo by electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle was evaluated by nonlinear curve fitting with a Michaelis-Menten-based kinetic model. The Km for dopamine uptake was found to be significantly higher in the basolateral amygdala (0.6 microM) than in the other two regions (0.2 microM), whereas the Vmax value for dopamine uptake in the basolateral amygdala was significantly lower (0.49 microM/s vs. 3.8 and 2.4 microM/s in the caudate and accumbens, respectively). Similar kinetics were also obtained in brain slices. Addition of a dopamine uptake inhibitor, cocaine or nomifensine (10 microM), to the perfusion buffer increased the apparent Km value > 25-fold in slices of both the caudate-putamen and nucleus accumbens. In contrast, neither uptake inhibitor had an observable effect in the basolateral amygdaloid nucleus. Thus, dopamine uptake in the rat brain is regionally distinct with regard to rate, affinity, and sensitivity to competitive inhibition.