Abstract This study utilized the technique of in situ hybridization histochemistry to identify cells expressing neurotransmitter mRNAs in embryonic striatal tissue grafts implanted into the ibotenic acid-lesioned rat neostriatum. Synthetic 32P- or 35S-labelled oligodeoxyribonucleotide probes specific for prosomatostatin, proneuropeptide Y, proenkephalin, prodynorphin and preprotachykinin mRNAs and a 32P-labelled cRNA probe specific for glutamate decarboxylase mRNA were used to study the regional and cellular changes in these mRNA levels in the normal, lesioned and grafted neostriatum. The levels of neuropeptide Y mRNA and somatostatin mRNA were substantially increased in the striatal grafts compared with the intact control striata. The levels of glutamate decarboxylase mRNA in the grafts also appeared to be slightly elevated over those in the control striata. However, the levels of proenkephalin mRNA, prodynorphin mRNA and preprotachykinin mRNA were significantly lower in the grafts. The increased levels of neuropeptide Y mRNA and somatostatin mRNA in the grafts were due both to an increase in the number of labelled cells and to an increase in the cellular levels of each neuropeptide mRNA. In contrast, the cellular levels of proenkephalin mRNA, prodynorphin mRNA and preprotachykinin mRNA in the grafts were comparable, or elevated relative, to those in the intact striata but the density of cells expressing each of these mRNAs was reduced. Since neuropeptide Y and somatostatin are known to be present in medium to large aspiny striatal neurons (interneurons) and enkephalin, dynorphin and tachykinin peptides and GABA are localized in medium spiny striatal projection neurons, the above findings would indicate that there is a divergence in the levels of activity between these two neuronal populations in the striatal grafts. Our data suggest that the levels of gene expression and hence the functional neurotransmittersynthesizing and releasing activity in the grafted neuron are different from those in the normal mature striatum.