Abstract The distribution and density of dopamine D 1 and D 2 receptors were examined by autoradiography in postmortem brain tissue from patients with pathological diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, status lacunaris, clinical parkinsonism without neuropathological lesions and in age-matched controls. The D 1 antagonist [ 3H]SCH 23390 and the D 2 agonist [ 3H]CV 205–502 were used as ligands. No significant differences in the distribution or density of D 1 or D 2 receptors were found in Parkinson's disease in the areas examined, including the nucleus caudatus, putamen, globus pallidus and substantia nigra. In contrast, cases presenting lacunar lesions in the striatum showed marked decreases in D 1 and D 2 receptor densities in this region. Patients clinically diagnosed as parkinsonians but without Parkinson's disease lesions or striatal lacunar softenings showed reduced densities of D 2 receptors in the nucleus caudatus and putamen, while in the substantia nigra the densities were comparable to controls. In the basal ganglia of these cases D 1 receptors were slightly decreased.