The role of dopamine as the endogenous signal-initiating light-dependent changes in the distribution of pigment granules in goldfish retinal pigment epithelium was investigated. In normal retinas, light adaptation resulted in the dispersion of pigment granules. This effect of light was mimicked by the intraocular injection of dopamine or serotonin, which is thought to increase endogenous dopamine release, into dark-adapted eyes. The effect of light, dopamine, or serotonin on dark-adapted retinas was blocked by the dopamine receptor antagonists haloperidol and sulpiride. However, lesioning the endogenous source of retinal dopamine, by prior intraocular injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), did not block the dispersion of pigment granules in light-adapted retinas. No significant differences in pigment dispersion were noted between unlesioned and lesioned light- or dark-adapted retinas. However, the effect of light on pigment dispersion was no longer blocked by haloperidol or sulpiride in 6-OHDA lesioned animals. Dopamine and serotonin mimicked the effect of light when injected into lesioned dark-adapted eyes, but their effects were also not blocked by haloperidol or sulpiride. These results suggest that dopamine, acting on D2 receptors, is sufficient to induce pigment migration in unlesioned animals. In 6-OHDA-lesioned animals, however, pigment migration is mediated by a receptor mechanism other than D2.