These studies were designed to examine the effect of chronic administration of pentobarbital on activity of adenylate cyclase (AC) and protein kinase C (PKC) in the rat brain by autoradiography. Recently, it has been suggested that the phosphorylation of specific proteins may be involved in the development of physical dependence. An experimental model of barbiturate tolerance and dependence was developed using i.c.v. infusion of pentobarbital (300 μg/10 μl/hr for 7 days) by osmotic minipumps and abrupt withdrawal from pentobarbital. The levels of [3H]forskolin binding were elevated (28-6%) in cortex, thalamus, dentate gyrus, hippocampal CA3 and cerebellum of the pentobarbital withdrawal animals, while these changes were not observed in tolerant rats. The levels of [3H]phorbol dibutyrate binding were highly elevated (38-65%) in the region of cortex, caudate putamen, septum, thalamus, dentate gyrus, and cerebellum of rats withdrawal from pentobarbital. These results show that the levels of AC and PKC were significantly elevated in pentobarbital withdrawal rats, and suggest that the levels of AC and PKC are altered in a region-specific manner during pentobarbital withdrawal.