1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) produces, in both human and non-human primates, a syndrome very similar to idiopathic Parkinson's disease. The syndrome is associated with degeneration of the dopamine-containing neurons in the substantia nigra, many of which project to the neostriatum. The purpose of the present study was to quantify the regional distribution of midbrain dopamine neurons remaining after MPTP administration to the monkey (Macaca fascicularis) and to develop alternative procedures for maintaining the normal nutrition in MPTP-treated animals. Three monkeys were treated with MPTP and three served as controls. Representative sections were examined from rostral to caudal through the midbrain dopamine cell nuclei and the location of every tyrosine hydroxylase-containing cell was entered into a computer. Midbrain dopamine neuronal cell loss ranged from 36-78%, being most extensive in the two monkeys which exhibited the most severe parkinsonian syndrome. The greatest cell loss (46-93%) occurred in the substantia nigra pars compacta, or nucleus A9, and the loss was primarily in the ventral portion of the nucleus. Contrary to most previous reports, however, there was also a loss of cells in the ventral tegmental area (28-57%) and ventral reticular formation (33-87%), corresponding to nuclei A10 and A8, respectively. Since neuroanatomical tracing studies have shown that the dorsal and lateral portions of the striatum (areas showing the greatest dopamine depletion after MPTP) receive input from cells in the ventral A9 and from cells in the A8 and A10 areas, the present data suggest that MPTP preferentially destroys dopamine cells that project to the striatum (i.e. the mesostriatal cells).