On-line in vivo microdialysis was used to determine the effects of a 16-min handling period on release of dopamine (DA) in the nucleus accumbens and of DA and noradrenaline (NA) in the medial prefrontal cortex of awake, freely moving rats. DA and NA were determined in one HPLC run. Handling resulted in an immediate and strong increase of both catecholamines in the prefrontal cortex. Maximal values for DA were 295%, and for NA 225%, of controls. DA in the nucleus accumbens was also increased (to 135% of controls) but only after a short delay. Local inhibition of ionotropic glutamate receptors by continuous reversed dialysis of the drugs 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline, D-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid, or dizocilpine did not significantly affect handling-induced increases in cortical DA and NA release. Neither did the agonist of metabotropic glutamate receptors, trans-(1S,3R)-1-aminocyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylic acid (ACPD), or the GABA-B agonist baclofen. Reversed dialysis of dizocilpine in the nucleus accumbens was equally ineffective, but ACPD inhibited the increase in DA release in this area. Stimulation of metabotropic glutamate receptors in the nucleus accumbens was previously reported to inhibit activation of DA release in that area after stimulation of glutamatergic or dopaminergic afferents. It is concluded that metabotropic receptors in the nucleus accumbens are important for the control of activation of DA release in the accumbens by physiological stimuli but that a similar mechanism is lacking in the prefrontal cortex.