Unilateral naris cauterization in rats results in occlusion of the affected naris and blockade of odorant access to ipsilateral olfactory receptor cells in the olfactory epithelium. These receptor cells project exclusively to the olfactory bulb (OB) and appear to regulate expression of the dopaminergic phenotype in a population of OB juxtaglomerular neurons. Unilateral odor deprivation results in a loss of normal stimulatory input to the OB and a marked and specific decrease in ipsilateral OB tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression. The expression of co-localized aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) is not similarly affected. We have used this procedure in neonatal rats to examine the effect of stimulus deprivation on OB TH and AADC mRNA levels. Both Northern blot and in situ hybridization analyses revealed a pronounced decrease in ipsilateral as compared to contralateral OB TH mRNA levels 40 days after naris closure. In contrast, the levels of OB AADC mRNA were unaltered by naris closure. By in situ hybridization histochemistry, both TH and AADC mRNAs were localized to OB juxtaglomerular neurons. Odor deprivation was associated with an apparent region-specific reduction in TH mRNA within the ipsilateral OB glomerular layer. By densitometric analysis, the loss of TH-specific message was quantitatively consistent with the decrease in TH activity, suggesting that the observed plasticity of OB dopaminergic neurons following functional deafferentation can be attributed to a selective, transneuronally-mediated down regulation of TH gene transcription.