[3H]Dopamine (DA) uptake radioautography and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunocytochemistry were used to assess quantitatively the effects of the presence or absence of host mesostriatal DA afferents on the survival and fiber outgrowth from fetal ventral mesencephalic DA neurons grafted into the neostriatum of adult recipient rats. Rats received bilateral intrastriatal transplants of fetal ventral mesencephalic tissue 1 month after a unilateral injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) into the right nigrostriatal bundle (denervated side). Five to six months later, some of the grafted rats received a second 6-OHDA injection in the left nigrostriatal bundle (acutely denervated or ‘intact’side). After a further 7 days, slices of each hemisphere from the latter rats were incubated with [3H]DA and processed for film and high resolution radioautography. The density of the film radioautographs was measured with a computerized image analysis system and calibrated by silver grain cluster (i.e. DA terminal) counting over selected areas of the same sections in light microscope radioautographs. The brains of the remaining grafted rats were processed for TH immunoreactivity 6–12 months after graft surgery. Neither the size of the grafts, nor the number of surviving TH-positive graft neurons showed any significant difference between the nondenervated and the denervated sides. However, the size of the TH-positive cell bodies was significantly greater in the grafts on the denervated side. In the [3H]DA uptake radioautographs, considerable outgrowth of DA fibers was evident in the neostriatum on the ‘intact’side in spite of the presence of an intact host DA innervation until 7 days before sacrifice. The overall DA fiber outgrowth was nevertheless almost two-fold greater on the denervated side, and extended deeper into the host neostriatum than on the ‘intact’side; only 7% of the total neostriatal area, on average, was at background level compared to 30% on the ‘intact’side, and the overall density of neostriatal DA innervation amounted to 36% of normal as compared to 20% on the ‘intact’side. The correlation between the overall density of graft-derived DA innervation and the size of the grafts was linear on the ‘intact’side, but reached a plateau with relatively small grafts on the denervated side. However, the ventral striatum on both sides was very poorly innervated by these grafts. These findings demonstrate that the mature neostriatal tissue can support axonal growth and innervation from grafted fetal DA neurons even in the presence of a normal complement of endogenous DA fibers. Prior removal of the host striatal DA innervation does not influence the overall size of the grafts nor the number of surviving DA neurons, but induces an increase in the cell body size and fiber outgrowth of the grafted DA neurons.