The progressive degeneration of dopamine neurons observed in idiopathic Parkinson's disease was mimicked by injecting low doses of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) to baboons, on a chronic basis. Five Papio papio baboons were treated on two different regimens (chronic intravenous administration at weekly intervals for 20-21 months or, daily MPTP treatment for five days followed five to six months later by chronic weekly injections for 5-21.5 months). All animals were assessed for motor symptoms during and after neurotoxic treatment. Both regimens invariably resulted in the appearance of a progressive and irreversible syndrome characterized by action and resting tremor, cogwheel rigidity, postural impairments, hypokinesia and bradykinesia. In some animals, symptoms of resting tremor and rigidity initially restricted to one side of the body became bilateral within a few months of treatment. Subtle abnormalities that may be found in idiopathic Parkinson's disease such as alterations of the blink reflex response were also noted. Neuropathological examination of caudate nucleus, putamen, substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area in brain sections stained for tyrosine hydroxylase showed a typical uneven striatal dopamine fibre loss and a neuronal depletion in the dopaminergic mesencephalic cell groups that reproduce those observed in idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Immunocytochemical observations and behavioural data show that chronic rather than acute MPTP injection regimens can replicate most of the neuropathological and the clinical features typical of idiopathic Parkinson's disease, possibly by increasing the ability of this neurotoxin to target specific subpopulations of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons.