Growth/differentiation factor 5 is a member of the transforming growth factor ß superfamily, which has neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects on dopaminergic neurons both in vitro and in vivo. Here we investigate the effects of growth/differentiation factor 5 on foetal mesencephalic grafts transplanted into a rat model of Parkinson's disease, and compare them with those of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor. Mesencephalic tissue was suspended in solutions containing either growth/differentiation factor 5 or glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor prior to transplantation into the left striatum of rats with 6-hydroxydopamine lesions of the left medial forebrain bundle. Both proteins enhanced graft-induced compensation of amphetamine-stimulated rotations. Positron emission tomography studies showed that both neurotrophins increased graft-induced recovery of striatal binding of [11C]RTI-121, a marker for dopaminergic nerve terminals. Post mortem analysis at 8 weeks after transplantation showed that both neurotrophins significantly increased the survival of grafted dopaminergic neurons. This study shows that growth/differentiation factor 5 is at least as effective as glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in enhancing the survival and functional activity of mesencephalic grafts, and thus is an important candidate for use in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. © European Neuroscience Association.