The involvement of alpha-synuclein in familial forms of Parkinson's disease suggests a potential causative role in the pathogenesis. We have explored the possibility of generating animal models of Parkinson's disease by overexpressing alpha-synuclein in the nigrostriatal pathway using viral vectors. Both lentiviral and adeno-associated vectors efficiently transduce dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, and transgenic expression of alpha-synuclein leads to the progressive loss of neurons positive for dopaminergic markers, with the formation of intraneuronal alpha-synuclein aggregates. With a high tropism for nigral dopaminergic neurons, adeno-associated vectors allow for the monitoring of dopaminergic function using spontaneous and drug-induced behaviour. We propose that virus-based rodent alpha-synuclein models provide a valuable approach for the preclinical testing of therapeutics.