The cerebral distribution of the positron-emitting agent [1-11C]beta-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-D,L-alpha-alanine ([11C]DOPA) was studied after intravenous injection in rats pretreated with the peripheral decarboxylase inhibitor, carbidopa. Within 15 min of injection the accumulation of carbon-11 was almost twice as high in cortical areas and cerebellum as in the striatum and the brain stem. After destruction of catecholamine-containing nerve endings with 6-hydroxydopamine, the level of carbon-11 in the striatum was higher than in rats not treated with this neurotoxin. Pretreatment of rats with haloperidol or L-DOPA did not change the distribution pattern of carbon-11. Without pretreatment with carbidopa a uniform distribution of the label in the brain was observed. We suggest that [11C]DOPA is a potentially useful agent for external detection with positron imaging systems in patients and large animals of brain regions rich in the enzyme dopa-decarboxylase. (EC 188.8.131.52).