Previous results from our laboratory have shown that 17β-oestradiol prevents 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) striatal dopamine depletion. 17β-oestradiol, oestriol and oestrone are the naturally occurring oestogens in humans. Using various dopamine markers, the present study investigated whether oestrone and oestriol such as 17β-oestradiol have neuroprotective activity in MPTP-treated mice. Male mice were treated with 17β-oestradiol, oestriol or oestrone for 5 days before and after MPTP administration, and were compared with nonlesioned mice receiving the same treatment. Striatal concentrations of dopamine and its metabolites, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and homovanillic acid (HVA), were assayed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Dopamine transporter (DAT) and vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT2) specific binding were measured by autoradiography. DAT, VMAT2 and tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA levels were measured by in situ hybridisation. MPTP induced a loss of DAT and VMAT2 specific binding in the striatum and substantia nigra, as well as a decrease of VMAT2 mRNA in the substantia nigra. 17β-oestradiol treatment prevented the loss of these dopaminergic markers, as well as striatal concentrations of dopamine, DOPAC and HVA. Mice receiving oestriol and oestrone showed catecholamine concentrations comparable to MPTP mice. Oestriol treatment had no effect on dopaminergic markers in MPTP mice whereas oestrone prevented striatal DAT loss and the decrease of VMAT2 mRNA in the substantia nigra. In nonlesioned mice, 17β-oestradiol, oestriol or oestrone had no effect on all the dopaminergic markers investigated. In conclusion, a weak or a lack of effect of oestriol and oestrone was observed compared to 17β-oestradiol in MPTP mice and none of these steroids had an effect in nonlesioned mice. A DAT and VMAT2 specific binding decrease after MPTP in the striatum and substantia nigra, as well as a decrease of substantia nigra VMAT2 mRNA, was observed and could be prevented by oestradiol.