Several transgenic mouse lines with altered α-synuclein expression have been developed that show a variety of Parkinson's disease-like symptoms without specific loss of dopaminergic neurons. Targeted over-expression of human α-synuclein using viral-vector mediated gene delivery into the substantia nigra of rats and non-human primates leads to dopaminergic cell loss and the formation of α-synuclein aggregates reminiscent of Lewy bodies. In the context of these recent findings, we used adeno-associated virus (AAV) to over-express wild type human α-synuclein in the substantia nigra of mice. We hypothesized that this over-expression would recapitulate pathological hallmarks of Parkinson's disease, creating a mouse model to further characterize the disease pathogenesis. Recombinant AAV expressing α-synuclein was stereotaxically injected into the substantia nigra of mice, leading to a 25% reduction of dopaminergic neurons after 24 weeks of transduction. Furthermore, examination of mRNA levels of stress-related proteins using laser capture microdissection and quantitative PCR revealed a positive correlation of Hsp27 expression with the extent of viral transduction at 4 weeks and a positive correlation of Hsp40, Hsp70 and caspase 9 with the extent of viral transduction at 24 weeks. Taken together, our findings suggest that targeted over-expression of α-synuclein can induce pathology at the gross anatomical and molecular level in the substantia nigra, providing a mouse model in which upstream changes in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis can be further elucidated. © 2007 The Authors.