One therapeutic approach to treating Parkinson's disease is to convert endogenous striatal cells into levo-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-dopa)-producing cells. A defective herpes simplex virus type 1 vector expressing human tyrosine hydroxylase was delivered into the partially denervated striatum of 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats, used as a model of Parkinson's disease. Efficient behavioral and biochemical recovery was maintained for 1 year after gene transfer. Biochemical recovery included increases in both striatal tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme activity and in extracellular dopamine concentrations. Persistence of human tyrosine hydroxylase was revealed by expression of RNA and immunoreactivity.