Our previous studies have demonstrated that LY171555 (quinpirole), a specific dopamine (DA) D2-receptor agonist, has a pressor effect in the conscious rat which is accompanied by increased sympathetic outflow and arginine vasopressin release. To test the hypothesis that LY171555 inhibits in vivo release of DA and its metabolites, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA), from central dopaminergic neurons of the conscious, freely moving rat by activation of presynaptic DA receptors in the central nervous system and that this mechanism may be altered in the desoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)/NaCl model of hypertension, we used the in vivo push-pull perfusion method to study the effect of LY171555 on central DA release in normotensive and DOCA/NaCl-hypertensive rats. Levels of the DOPAC and HVA were measured in striatal perfusates by HPLC before and after administration of LY171555 (1 mg/kg, i.v.) of conscious, unrestrained 4-week DOCA/NaCl hypertensive and uninephrectomized H2O control rats. There were no significant differences in basal striatal HVA (80 ± 12 vs 89 ± 11 pg/min; DOCA/NaCl vs control) or DOPAC levels (37 ± 5 vs 17 pg/min; DOCA/NaCl vs control) during the entire 240-min collection period. LY171555 significantly reduced HVA and DOPAC levels in perfused striatum in both normotensive control and DOCA/NaCl-hypertensive rats. The LY 17555-induced suppression in HVA levels was significantly greater in DOCA/NaCl rats (Δ = 60.7 ± 3.6%) than in H2O controls (Δ = 49.0 ± 3.5%, P < 0.05). Pretreatment with metoclopramide (10 mg/kg, i.v.), a specific central and peripheral DA D2-receptor antagonist, completely blocked the suppressive effects of LY171555 on HVA and DOPAC levels. These observations provide direct evidence for the presence of functionally significant presynaptic inhibitory DA D2-receptors which modulate dopaminergic neuro-transmission in the striatum of conscious, freely moving rats. This regulatory mechanism appears to be altered in the DOCA/NaCl model of hypertension. These results support the concept that DOCA/NaCl-hypertensive rats have altered central dopaminergic activity. © 1987.