Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterised by the loss of dopaminergic neurones in the substantia nigra (SN) but the pathogenic mechanism remains unknown. Cell death involves oxidative stress and inflammatory mechanisms, and these may be altered by the actions of the glycosylated phosphoprotein osteopontin (OPN). OPN is present in the rat SN, but its presence in human and non-human primate brain has not been extensively studied. Both OPN mRNA and protein were present in the normal marmoset SN, and OPN protein was localised to nigral neurones although these were not dopaminergic cells and it was not present in glial cells. In contrast, OPN protein was found in dopaminergic neurones in the normal human SN but again not in glial cells with some accumulation in the extracellular matrix. Following MPTP treatment of common marmosets, OPN protein expression was decreased, although its mRNA levels were unchanged and it was not present in either activated microglia or astrocytes. In the SN in PD, OPN protein expression was decreased in the remaining dopaminergic neurones and it was present in activated microglia but not in astrocytes. This was not specific to PD as OPN protein expression was also decreased in the SN in multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy with an identical localisation of the protein. The presence of OPN in the normal human and non-human primate SN coupled to its decreased expression following nigral cell degeneration suggests that it may play an important role in dopaminergic neurone survival.