The primate striatum contains tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-immunoreactive (ir) neurons, the numbers of which are augmented after dopamine depletion. Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) strongly modulates the viability and phenotypic expression of dopamine ventral mesencephalic neurons. The effect of GDNF on TH-ir neurons intrinsic to the striatum has yet to be investigated. In the present study, stereological counts of TH-ir striatal neurons in aged and parkinsonian nonhuman primates revealed that GDNF delivered via a lentiviral vector (lenti-) further increased the number of these cells. Aged monkeys treated with lenti-GDNF displayed an eightfold increase in TH-ir neurons relative to lenti-beta-galactosidase-treated monkeys. Unilateral 1-methyl-4-phenyl- 1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine treatment alone in young monkeys resulted in a bilateral eightfold increase in TH-ir striatal cells. This effect was further magnified sevenfold on the side of lenti-GDNF treatment. These cells colocalized with the neuronal marker neuronal-specific nuclear protein. Some of these cells colocalized with GDNF-ir, indicating that an alteration in phenotype may occur by the direct actions of this trophic factor. Thus, GDNF may mediate plasticity in the dopamine-depleted primate brain, which may serve to compensate for cell loss by converting striatal neurons to a dopaminergic phenotype.