Previous work has demonstrated that chronic administration of cocaine induces apparently novel Fos-like transcription factors, termed chronic Fras (Fos-related antigens), in the rat striatum and nucleus accumbens. Induction of these proteins is associated with prolonged increases in AP-1 DNA binding activity that parallel the long half-life of the chronic Fras in brain. The goal of the present study was to characterize pharmacologically the regulation of chronic Fra induction by cocaine. Chronic Fra induction was examined with respect to the cocaine dose, time course and administration intervals used. Cocaine was found to induce the chronic Fras over widely differing treatment regimens in the striatum and nucleus accumbens, although clear differences between the two brain regions were observed. In general, maximal induction occurred with moderate treatment conditions, with more or less intensive treatments resulting in lower levels of chronic Fras. The pharmacological mechanisms underlying cocaine induction of the chronic Fras were also investigated. Pretreatment with a D1 receptor antagonist, which did not affect chronic Fra levels by itself, attenuated cocaine induction of the chronic Fras in striatum and nucleus accumbens. In contrast, treatment with a D2 receptor antagonist alone greatly induced chronic Fra levels, with no further increase seen in response to combined treatment with cocaine. Combined treatment with D1 and D2 receptor agonists, or with amphetamine, led to a strong induction of chronic Fras. Similarly, repeated treatment with a specific dopamine transporter inhibitor increased chronic Fra levels, whereas treatment with a specific serotonin or norepinephrine transporter inhibitor failed to produce this effect. These results support an important role for dopaminergic neurotransmission in the induction of chronic Fras by cocaine. Taken together, the results of the present study provide a more complete understanding of the pharmacological properties underlying cocaine regulation of the chronic Fras, which will assist in identifying the functional role played by these proteins in cocaine action.