We measured the levels of dopamine, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) protein, and dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) decarboxylase (DDC) protein in the striatum of 10 patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) and 23 patients with dominantly inherited olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA). The levels of dopamine were markedly reduced (2% of control) in the striatum of the patients with PD, whereas striatal dopamine in the patients with OPCA ranged from normal (<60% of control) to moderately reduced (20–60% of control) to severely depleted (<20% of control). Both TH and DDC protein levels were significantly lower than those of the controls in the striatum of all of the patients with PD and in the subgroup of patients with OPCA having severely depleted dopamine. In contradistinction, TH but not DDC protein levels were reduced in those patients with OPCA having moderately reduced dopamine levels. This suggests that in the early stage of nigrostriatal dopamine neurone degeneration, DDC levels may be less susceptible to neurodegenerative influences than is TH synthesis or, alternatively, DDC synthesis may be more aggressively upregulated. Unexpectedly, from the blot immunolabeling analysis an additional DDC-immunoreactive band of slightly lower apparent molecular mass was detected in two of the patients with PD and in 12 of the patients with OPCA. This additional DDC band, which was not present in any of the control subjects, may reflect posttranslational modification(s) of DDC related to the neurodegenerative process.