Several non-physiological stimuli (i.e. pharmacological or electrical stimuli) have been shown to induce Fos expression in striatal neurons. In this work, striatal Fos (i.e. Fos-like) expression was studied after physiological stimulation, i.e. motor activity (treadmill running at 36 m/min for 20 min). In rats killed 2 h after the treadmill session, Fos expression was observed in the medial region of the rostral and central striatum, and in the dorsal region of the caudal striatum. Fos expression was prevented by pretreatment with the non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor antagonist MK-801 (0.1 mg/kg) or the D1 dopamine receptor antagonist SCH-23390 (0.1 mg/kg), but not by pretreatment with the D2 receptor antagonist eticlopride (0.5 mg/kg). Thirty-six hours after 6-hydroxydopamine lesion, a considerable reduction in treadmill-induced Fos expression was observed in both sides; however, Fos expression in the lesioned striatum was higher than in the contralateral intact striatum. Several weeks after unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine lesion of the nigrostriatal system, treadmill-induced Fos expression was significantly, but not totally, reduced in the lesioned striatum. Corticostriatal deafferentation also led to considerable reduction in treadmill-induced Fos expression. The present results indicate that exercise induces striatal Fos expression and that, under physiological stimulation, concurrent activation of D1 and NMDA receptors is necessary for such expression to occur. Reduction of Fos expression is practically absolute after acute blockage of these receptors, but not after lesions, possibly due partially to compensatory changes.