Neuroleptic drugs have been shown to affect the level and messenger ribonucleic acid of specific neuropeptides. The effect of subchronically administered neuroleptics on neuropeptide metabolism, however, has not been systematically characterized. In the present study, the effect of neuroleptics and other dopaminergic compounds on substance P (SP), cholecystokinin and met-enkephalin degradation was determined on intact, regional, rat brain slices. After 7-day administration of haloperidol (1 mg/kg) or chlorpromazine (20 mg/kg), SP degradation was decreased in caudate-putamen and nucleus accumbens. After administration of the dopaminergic agonist apomorphine (5 mg/kg, b.i.d.), SP degradation was increased in the nucleus accumbens. The dopamine D2-receptor antagonist sulpiride (100 mg/kg, b.i.d.) produced no effect on SP degradation. Met-enkephalin degradation was decreased after haloperidol administration in both frontal cortex and caudate-putamen and unaffected by apomorphine administration. The metabolism of cholecystokinin was not affected by neuroleptic treatment. Studies performed with specific peptidase inhibitors suggested that neutral endopeptidase 24.11, metalloendopeptidase 24.15 and aminopeptidases degrade SP on caudate-putamen and nucleus accumbens slices. Therefore, alterations in these peptidases may be responsible for the change noted in SP degradation after dopaminergic compound administration. These metabolic changes noted after neuroleptic administration may therefore contribute to neuroleptic-induced alterations in regional peptide levels.