Mutations in DJ-1 cause autosomal recessive, early-onset Parkinson's disease (PD). The precise function and distribution of DJ-1 in the central nervous system remain unclear. In this study, we performed a comprehensive analysis of DJ-1 expression in human, monkey, and rat brains with antibodies that recognize distinct, evolutionarily conserved epitopes of DJ-1. We found that DJ-1 displays region-specific neuronal and glial labeling in human and nonhuman primate brain, sharply contrasting with the primarily neuronal expression pattern observed throughout rat brain. Further immunohistochemical analysis of DJ-1 expression in human and nonhuman primate brains showed that DJ-1 protein is expressed in neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta and striatum, two regions critically involved in PD pathogenesis. Moreover, immunoelectron microscopic analysis revealed a selective enrichment of DJ-1 within primate striatal axons, presynaptic terminals, and dendritic spines with respect to the DJ-1 expression in prefrontal cortex. Together, these findings indicate neuronal and synaptic expression of DJ-1 in primate subcortical brain regions and suggest a physiological role for DJ-1 in the survival and/or function of nigral-striatal neurons. J. Comp. Neurol. 500:585–599, 2007. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.