Parkin-deficient animals exhibit mitochondrial degeneration and increased oxidative stress vulnerability, and both mice and flies lacking DJ-1 are hypersensitive to environmental toxins associated with Parkinson's disease (PD). We used recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene transfer to study the influence of DJ-1 and Parkin on the dopaminergic system of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-treated mice, a model for sporadic PD. After MPTP lesioning, significantly more dopamine neurons survived in the virus-injected substantia nigra of the AAV-DJ-1 and AAV-Parkin mice when compared with AAV-enhanced green fluorescent protein injected controls. Protection at the neuronal level was supported by increased amphetamine-induced contralateral turning behavior. Normal mice expressing DJ-1 showed apomorphine-induced ipsilateral turning, suggesting a hyporesponsiveness of striatal dopamine D1 receptors in the DJ-1-expressing hemisphere. MPTP drastically reduced dopamine to 19% of normal levels and neither DJ-1 nor Parkin protected against MPTP-induced catecholamine loss under these conditions. Our results show that Parkin and DJ-1 inhibit dopamine neuron death and enhance amphetamine-induced dopaminergic function in a mouse model of idiopathic PD. However, DJ-1 overexpression also reduced postsynaptic dopamine receptor responses in normal mice. These results warrant further exploration of DJ-1 and Parkin gene therapy for PD, although a better understanding of their effects on behavior and dopamine neurotransmission is required before these proteins can be safely used.