Local delivery of therapeutic molecules represents one of the limiting factors for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. In vivo gene transfer using viral vectors constitutes a powerful strategy to overcome this limitation. The aim of the present study was to validate the lentiviral vector as a gene delivery system in the mouse midbrain in the perspective of screening biotherapeutic molecules in mouse models of Parkinson's disease. A preliminary study with a LacZ-encoding vector injected above the substantia nigra of C57BL/6j mice indicated that lentiviral vectors can infect approximately 40,000 cells and diffuse over long distances. Based on these results, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) was assessed as a neuroprotective molecule in a 6-hydroxydopamine model of Parkinson's disease. Lentiviral vectors carrying the cDNA for GDNF or mutated GDNF were unilaterally injected above the substantia nigra of C57BL/6j mice. Two weeks later, the animals were lesioned ipsilaterally with 6-hydroxydopamine into the striatum. Apomorphine-induced rotation was significantly decreased in the GDNF-injected group compared to control animals. Moreover, GDNF efficiently protected 69.5% of the tyrosine hydroxylase-positive cells in the substantia nigra against 6-hydroxydopamine-induced toxicity compared to 33.1% with control mutated GDNF. These data indicate that lentiviral vectors constitute a powerful gene delivery system for the screening of therapeutic molecules in mouse models of Parkinson's disease.