In Parkinson disease (PD), affected midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons lose specific dopaminergic properties before the neurons die. How the phenotype of DA neurons is normally established and the ways in which pathology affects the maintenance of cell identity are, therefore, important considerations. Orphan nuclear receptor NURR1 (NURR1, also known as NR4A2) is involved in the differentiation of midbrain DA neurons, but also has an important role in the adult brain. Emerging evidence indicates that impaired NURR1 function might contribute to the pathogenesis of PD: NURR1 and its transcriptional targets are downregulated in midbrain DA neurons that express high levels of the disease-causing protein α-synuclein. Clinical and experimental data indicate that disrupted NURR1 function contributes to induction of DA neuron dysfunction, which is seen in early stages of PD. The likely involvement of NURR1 in the development and progression of PD makes this protein a potentially interesting target for therapeutic intervention.