Lesch-Nyhan disease (LND) is an X-linked metabolic disorder caused by lack of activity of the purine salvage enzyme hypoxanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (HPRT) and characterized by hyperuricemia and debilitating neurological manifestations. The mechanisms underlying the neuropathology are not well understood and the principal neurochemical lesion characterized to date is a deficiency of the dopamine system in the basal ganglia. To facilitate the study of mechanism(s) by which HPRT deficiency causes the dopamine defect, we have compared the survival and dopamine phenotype of primary cultures of dopamine neurons derived from HPRT-deficient mice with the dopaminergic neurons from wild-type mice. The survival of dopaminergic neurons from both sources was promoted to an equal extent by glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a potent survival factor for dopamine neurons in vitro. Although the survival of the HPRT-deficient neurons was indistinguishable from that of cells derived from wild-type counterparts, the HPRT-deficient cells demonstrated a persistent deficiency of dopamine content and dopamine uptake with increasing neuritic differentiation, indicating that GDNF does not restore the normal phenotype in HPRT-deficient dopamine neurons despite its well-known protective and regenerative properties in several neurodegeneration models. Nevertheless, the demonstration that GDNF trophic support promotes the survival of these dopaminergic neurons will facilitate gaining a better understanding of the neuropathological mechanisms of LND by allowing a more extensive analysis of the cells central to the Lesch-Nyhan phenotype, the dopaminergic neurons of the basal ganglia.