There is increasing evidence that glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) plays a role as a limiting, striatal target-derived neurotrophic factor for dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) by regulating the magnitude of the first phase of postnatal natural cell death which occurs in these neurons. While it has been shown that GDNF mRNA is relatively abundant in postnatal striatum, the cellular basis of its expression has been unknown. We therefore used nonradioactive in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry to examine the cellular basis of GDNF mRNA and protein expression, respectively, in postnatal striatum and related structures. We found that GDNF mRNA is expressed within medium-sized striatal neurons. Expression in glia was not observed. At the protein level, regionally, GDNF expression in striatum was observed in striosomal patches, as previously described. At a cellular level a few neurons were observed, but they do not account for the striosomal pattern. This pattern is predominantly due to GDNF-positive neuropil. Some of this neuropil arises from tyrosine hydroxylase-positive nigro-striatal dopaminergic afferents. Astrocytic processes do not appear to contribute to the striosomal pattern. GDNF-positive fibers are identified not only within intrinsic striatal neuropil, but also in fibers within the major striatal efferent targets: the globus pallidus, the entopeduncular nucleus, and the SN pars reticulata. We conclude that during normal postnatal development, medium-sized neurons are the principal source of GDNF within the striatum. J. Comp. Neurol. 484:57–67, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.