High levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) are found in basal ganglia where it is co-localised with somatostatin (SOM) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate-diaphorase (NADPH/d) in a population of striatal GABA containing interneurones. Although alterations occur in the levels of various neuropeptides in basal ganglia in Parkinson's disease (PD), it is not known whether NPY is affected. Using in situ hybridisation immunohistochemistry, we have examined the distribution of NPY mRNA in the caudate nucleus, putamen and nucleus accumbens of normal individuals and patients with PD. NPY mRNA was weakly expressed in the caudate nucleus, putamen and nucleus accumbens in normal individuals with a scattered labelling of neurones. However, there was no regional localisation within any brain area and no obvious differences between brain regions. In PD, the number of NPY mRNA-expressing cells was increased as was the density of the silver grains overlying each positive cell. The increase was more pronounced in the nucleus accumbens and in the ventral part of the caudate nucleus. The increase in NPY mRNA expression observed in patients with PD may reflect the loss of dopaminergic tone on striatal NPY containing interneurones, although a role for chronic L-DOPA therapy cannot be ruled out. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.