A recombinant adenoviral vector encoding the human glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) gene (Ad-GDNF) was used to express the neurotrophic factor GDNF in the unilaterally 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) denervated substantia nigra (SN) of adult rats ten weeks following the 6-OHDA injection. 6-OHDA lesions significantly increased apomorphine-induced (contralateral) rotations and reduced striatal and nigral dopamine (DA) levels by 99% and 70%, respectively. Ad-GDNF significantly (P < 0.01) decreased (by 30-40%) apomorphine-induced rotations in lesioned rats for up to two weeks following a single injection. Locomotor activity, assessed 7 days following the Ad-GDNF injection, was also significantly (P < 0.05) increased (by 300-400%). Two weeks after the Ad-GDNF injection, locomotor activity was still significantly increased compared to the Ad-beta-gal-injected 6-OHDA lesioned (control) group. Additionally, in Ad-GDNF-injected rats, there was a significant decrease (10-13%) in weight gain which persisted for approximately two weeks following the injection. Consistent with the behavioral changes, levels of DA and the metabolite dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) were elevated (by 98% and 65%, respectively) in the SN, but not the striatum of Ad-GDNF-injected rats. Overall, a single Ad-GDNF injection had significant effects for 2-3 weeks following administration. These results suggest that virally delivered GDNF promotes the recovery of nigral dopaminergic tone (i.e.: increased DA and DOPAC levels) and improves behavioral performance (i.e.: decreased rotations, increased locomotion) in rodents with extensive nigrostriatal dopaminergic denervation. Moreover, our results suggest that viral delivery of trophic factors may be used eventually to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease.