In vivo microdialysis was used to study the effect of secretogranin II-derived peptides on dynorphin B (Dyn B), dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate and aspartate release in the substantia nigra and neostriatum of halothane-anaesthesized rats. In the substantia nigra, local infusion of secretoneurin (secretogranin II 154-186) (1-50 microM) increased, in a concentration-dependent manner, extracellular aspartate, glutamate, Dyn B, dopamine and GABA levels. The effect was particularly prominent on aspartate and glutamate levels which, following 50 microM of secretoneurin, were increased by > 20 and > 10 fold, respectively. However, the effect of secretoneurin on Dyn B release appeared to be more specific, since a significant increase (> 20 fold) was already observed following 1 microM of secretoneurin. In the neostriatum, Dyn B, glutamate, aspartate and GABA levels were also increased by local secretoneurin infusion, but the effect was less prominent than in the substantia nigra. In the substantia nigra, only Dyn B levels were significantly increased following infusion of 10 microM of the secretoneurin-C terminal (secretoneurin-15C), whereas Dyn B and GABA levels were increased by the same concentration of the secretogranin II C terminus (YM). Only glutamate and aspartate levels were increased by local infusion of 10 microM of secretogranin II 133-151 (LF), a peptide adjacent to secretoneurin in the primary amino acid sequence. In the neostriatum, Dyn B and GABA levels were increased by 10 microM of secretoneurin-15C. Dyn B levels were also increased by 10 microM of YM, and glutamate and aspartate levels were increased by 10 microM of both YM and LF. Thus secretogranin II-derived peptides affect extracellular levels of several putative neurotransmitter systems monitored in the basal ganglia of the rat with in vivo microdialysis. The effect of Dyn B appears to be specific and related to a physiological role of secretoneurin, since (i) it occurs in an area where secretoneurin-immunocytochemistry has been observed, (ii) is exerted at comparatively low concentrations, and (iii) is mimicked by secretoneurin-15C. The increases in excitatory amino acid levels produced by high concentrations of secretoneurin and other secretogranin II-derived peptides reflect, perhaps, a potential neurotoxicity produced by abnormal accumulation of these peptides.