Dopamine (DA) from both the posterior pituitary (PP) and stalk-median eminence (SME) inhibits prolactin (PRL) secretion from the anterior pituitary. Estradiol participates in the regulation of PRL release, in part by modulating DA release from the SME. However, little is known concerning the effects of estradiol on the release of DA from the PP. The objective of this study was to examine whether estradiol rapidly affects the potassium-evoked release of endogenous DA from the PP and SME in vitro. Tissues were dissected from ovariectomized rats and allowed to equilibrate in media for 30 min. Two pulses of 28 mM K+, 3 min each, were then given 30 min apart. Test substances were added 20 min before the second stimulus. DA in the media was determined by HPLC. Estradiol, at a concentration of 1 and 10 nM, significantly stimulated the potassium-evoked DA release from the PP by 34 and 47%, respectively. This stimulation was specific since 17 alpha-estradiol, a biologically inactive isomer, and testosterone, were without effects. Estradiol did not alter DA release from either the SME or isolated neural lobes of the PP. Naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist, abolished the estradiol-induced stimulation of DA release from the PP. In contrast, amphetamine, a DA-releasing agent, significantly increased DA release in the presence of naloxone. In conclusion, (1) estradiol stimulates DA release from the PP but not the SME or neural lobe; this effect is rapid and stereospecific, and (2) the effects of estradiol appear to be mediated via an opioid(s) peptide(s) from the intermediate lobe.