In animal models of Parkinson's disease, gene transfer of aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) leads to an increase in the capacity of the striatum to decarboxylate exogenous L-DOPA. However, the functional effects of enhanced L-DOPA to dopamine conversion have not been explored. Here, we show that following adeno-associated virus (AAV)-AADC transduction, the transgenic AADC is able to decarboxylate exogenous L-DOPA more efficiently so that a dose of L-DOPA ineffective before gene transfer elicits a motor asymmetry (rotational behavior) following gene transfer. Furthermore, rotation scores showed a strong correlation with AADC activity in the lesioned striatum, thus allowing for behavioral screening of successful gene transfer in the brain. In animals receiving AAV2-AADC, dopamine production was restored to 50% of normal levels 12 weeks after the infusion. Microdialysis experiments demonstrated an in vivo enhanced conversion of L-DOPA to dopamine, but no storage capacity as dopamine was released to the extracellular space in a continuous, nonregulated fashion. In addition to the potential clinical benefit of improving decarboxylation efficiency in Parkinson's disease, our approach may be relevant for the treatment of AADC deficiency, a rare, autosomal recessive disorder causing a severe movement disorder and progressive cognitive impairment.