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In order to obtain a more complete understanding of pyrethroid neurotoxicity, effects of the pyrethroid insecticides, allethrin (type I), cyhalothrin (type II) and deltamethrin (type II) on extracellular levels of dopamine (DA) and its metabolites in the striatum of conscious rats were studied by in vivo microdialysis. Rats were treated i.p. with pyrethroids or vehicle. Allethrin had a dual effect on DA release. The increase in the extracellular level of striatal DA by 10 mg/kg allethrin reached a maximum of 178% of baseline but 20 and 60 mg/kg inhibited DA release to 63% and 52% of baseline with a peak effect at 60–80 min after injection. Cyhalothrin 10, 20 and 60 mg/kg inhibited DA release to 65%, 56% and 45% of basal release, respectively, with a peak time of inhibition 40–80 min past injection. Deltamethrin (10 and 20 mg/kg) increased DA release to maximum of 187% and 252% of basal release whereas 60 mg/kg first reduced the efflux for 40 min to 50% of basal release and then increased the efflux to a maximum of 344% of basal release with a peak time of 120 min. Local infusion of 1 μM tetrodotoxin, a Na+ blocker through the dialysis probe completely prevented the effect of allethrin (10 and 60 mg/kg), cyhalothrin (60 mg/kg) and deltamethrin (20 mg/kg) on DA release but only partially blocked the effects of 60 mg/kg deltamethrin. The effect of deltamethrin (60 mg/kg) on DA release was completely prevented by local infusion of 10 μM nimodipine, an L-type Ca++ channel blocker. All three pyrethroids did not alter the extracellular levels of DOPAC, 3-MT and HVA except that 20 and 60 mg/kg of allethrin and cyhalothrin increased 3-MT levels. Effect of the pyrethroids on synaptosomal DA uptake was also examined. The DA uptake was decreased in rats exposed to 60 mg/kg of allethrin and cyhalothrin but was increased in rats exposed to 60 mg/kg of deltamethrin. Our results demonstrate that striatal DA release and DA uptake are differentially affected by type I and the two type II pyrethroids indicating that dopaminergic circuitry, striatal DA in particular, may be a pyrethroid target and that pyrethroids may be acting on striatal DA by multiple mechanisms.