Measures of dopamine-regulating proteins in somatodendritic regions are often used only as static indicators of neuron viability, overlooking the possible impact of somatodendritic dopamine (DA) signaling on behavior and the potential autonomy of DA regulation between somatodendritic and terminal field compartments. DA reuptake capacity is less in somatodendritic regions, possibly placing a greater burden on de novo DA biosynthesis within this compartment to maintain DA signaling. Therefore, regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity may be particularly critical for somatodendritic DA signaling. Phosphorylation of TH at ser31 or ser40 can increase activity, but their impact on L-DOPA biosynthesis in vivo is unknown. Thus, determining their relationship with L-DOPA tissue content could reveal a mechanism by which DA signaling is normally maintained. In Brown-Norway Fischer 344 F 1 hybrid rats, we quantified TH phosphorylation versus L-DOPA accumulation. After inhibition of aromatic acid decarboxylase, L-DOPA tissue content per recovered TH protein was greatest in NAc, matched by differences in ser31, but not ser40, phosphorylation. The L-DOPA per catecholamine and DA turnover ratios were significantly greater in SN and VTA, suggesting greater reliance on de novo DA biosynthesis therein. These compartmental differences reflected an overall autonomy of DA regulation, as seen by decreased DA content in SN and VTA, but not in striatum or NAc, following short-term DA biosynthesis inhibition from local infusion of the TH inhibitor α-methyl-p-tyrosine, as well as in the long-term process of aging. Such data suggest ser31 phosphorylation plays a significant role in regulating TH activity in vivo, particularly in somatodendritic regions, which may have a greater reliance on de novo DA biosynthesis. Thus, to the extent that somatodendritic DA release affects behavior, TH regulation in the midbrain may be critical for DA bioavailability to influence behavior.