Nineteen Macaca fascicularis monkeys were divided into four different groups: Group A (n = 3), control; Group B (n = 3), monkeys treated with I-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP); Group C (n = 8), animals treated with MPTP in which the subthalamic nucleus (STN) was unilaterally lesioned by kainic acid injection; in Group D (n = 5), the STN was lesioned prior to MPTP administration. Subthalamotomy resulted in a bilateral improvement of tremor, spontaneous activity, bradykinesia (evaluated by a manual motor test) and freezing in Group C. All these monkeys developed hemichorea contralateral to the lesion. The improvement was maintained and the hemichorea continued until death. The monkeys in group D showed severe hemiballism which persisted throughout MPTP administration and developed parkinsonian signs mainly on the side ipsilateral to the lesion. Analysis of the in situ hybridization of the mRNA coding for glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) of MPTP monkeys showed a significant increase in the mean density of silver grains over every labelled neuron in the globus pallidum lateralis (56.8% over control) as well as the globus pallidus medialis (GPM) (45.7% over control) and the substantia nigra reticulata (SNR) (35.8% over control). No significant change was observed in the thalamic nucleus reticularis. Subthalamotomy (Groups C and D) produced a significant reduction in mRNA GAD expression on the side of the lesion in the GPM and the SNR (34% and 42.3%, respectively) with respect to the ipsilateral (non-lesioned) side and also when compared with parkinsonian monkeys. These results confirm and expand, at the cellular level, the paramount role of STN hyperactivity in the pathophysiology of parkinsonism. The therapeutic consequences of these findings for surgical treatment of Parkinson's disease are discussed.