The effects of stress on dopamine (DA) metabolism in the mesencephalic DA cell body areas and DA terminal field regions were examined. Both mild footshock stress and exposure to a neutral stimulus previously paired with footshock resulted in a selective increase in the levels of the DA metabolite 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) in the prefrontal cortex as has been previously reported. Footshock stress also resulted in a slight but significant increase in DOPAC levels in the olfactory tubercles. DOPAC levels were selectively increased in the A10 cell body area (ventral tegmental area) but not A9 region (substantia nigra) by both footshock and the conditioned stress paradigm. These data indicate that the cell bodies of origin of the mesocortical dopaminergic system are activated by stress in contrast to those DA neurons innervating the striatum. It appears that mesocortical dopaminergic neurons exhibit different regulatory features than mesolimbic or nigrostriatal neurons.