Neurotrophins, including nerve growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and neurotrophin-4/51 (NT-4/5), have been shown to enhance survival and differentiation of a variety of central neuronal populations, such as those with the dopaminergic, cholinergic, GABAergic phenotype during development. In this paper we present evidence that BDNF, NT-3 and NT-4/5 acting synergistically with dopamine (DA) can artificially induce the full dopaminergic phenotype in rat fetal cerebral cortex which normally has very few dopaminergic neurons in adulthood. Thus, BDNF/DA, NT-3/DA, NT-4/DA elicited a great increase in the number of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-immunoreactive cells, which was up to 57% of total neuronal population in cultures of fetal rat cortical cells. This stimulatory effect was not dependent on glial proliferation, or on addition of serum to the culture. Pharmacological studies showed that dopamine receptors D, and D2 were involved in this effect. The TH’cortical cells possessed other biochemical phenotypic features of dopaminergic neurons. Thus, high-affinity DA uptake was elevated in cortical cultures treated with neurotrophin/DA. Also DA and 3,4–dihydroxyphenlacetic acid production was detected (5.42 ± 1.24 and 13.72 ? 2.84 pmol/dish respectively, zero in controls). This shows the presence of functionally active TH, aromatic acid decarboxylase and monoamine oxidase. Neurotrophins/DA had no effect on noradrenergic phenotype expression by cortical fetal cells. Taken together, these results support the long-standing view that development of the central nervous system is determined not only by intrinsic genetic programmes, but also involves environmental influences such as the action of growth factors and extracellular neurotransmitters. In this case we report the effect of specific DA phenotype-inducing agents.