Dopaminergic afferents to the dorsal striatum, caudate-putamen nuclei, are known to modulate the levels and synthesis of endogenous opiate peptides (Leu5 and Met5-enkephalins). We examined the dual immunocytochemical localization of antisera raised against Leu5-enkephalin and the catecholamine-synthesizing enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), to determine the cellular substrates for these and/or other functional interactions. The antisera were identified by combined immunogold-silver and immunoperoxidase labeling in single coronal sections through the caudate-putamen nuclei of adult rats. These animals were given intraventricular injections of colchicine, and the brains were fixed by acrolein perfusion prior to immunocytochemical labeling. By light microscopy, perikarya and processes containing enkephalin-like immunoreactivity (ELI) were seen in close proximity to varicose processes immunoreactive for TH. Electron microscopy further demonstrated that the ELI was localized to perikarya, dendrites, and axon terminals, whereas the TH was exclusively in axons and terminals. The dendrites containing ELI were postsynaptic to terminals that were either (1) without detectable immunoreactivity, or (2) immunoreactive for TH or enkephalin. Nonsynaptic portions of the dendrites containing ELI were covered with astrocytic processes or were in direct apposition to unlabeled dendrites. Terminals containing ELI were densely immunoreactive and were in direct contact with (1) unlabeled and occasionally enkephalin-labeled proximal dendrites, and (2) TH-labeled and unlabeled terminals. In comparison with the opiate terminals, most catecholaminergic terminals were lightly immunoreactive for TH and usually contacted more distal unlabeled dendrites or spines and, more rarely, dendrites containing ELI. In a few favorable planes of section, the terminals containing ELI and those containing TH (1) converged on common unlabeled dendrites, or (2) formed dual contacts on two different labeled or unlabeled targets. Junctions formed by terminals containing ELI and TH were sometimes characterized by symmetric synaptic densities. However, numerous other dendritic and all axonal appositions were without recognized membrane densities. The findings of the study provide anatomical substrates for multilevel interactions between catecholamines, mostly dopamine, and enkephalin in rat dorsal striatum. These include (1) monosynaptic input from dopaminergic terminals to neurons containing enkephalin, (2) presynaptic modulation of transmitter release through axonal appositions, and (3) dual regulation of common targets through convergent input. In addition, the findings suggest that both enkephalin and dopamine may have similar modulatory roles in synchronizing the activity of dual targets postsynaptic to individual axon terminals. Alterations in any one of these multiple types of interactions could account for noted motor or sensory symptoms in neurological disorders characterized by depletion of dopamine or endogenous opiate peptides, or both.