Our recent study has indicated that a moderate lesion of the mesostriatal and mesolimbic pathways in rats, modelling preclinical stages of Parkinson's disease, induces a depressive-like behaviour which is reversed by chronic treatment with pramipexole. The purpose of the present study was to examine the role of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signalling in the aforementioned model of depression. Therefore, we investigated the influence of 6-hydoxydopamine (6-OHDA) administration into the ventral region of the caudate-putamen on mRNA levels of BDNF and tropomyosin-related kinase B (trkB) receptor. The BDNF and trkB mRNA levels were determined in the nigrostriatal and limbic structures by in situ hybridization 2 weeks after the operation. Pramipexole (1 mg/kg sc twice a day) and imipramine (10 mg/kg ip once a day) were injected for 2 weeks. The lesion lowered the BDNF and trkB mRNA levels in the hippocampus [CA1, CA3 and dentate gyrus (DG)] and amygdala (basolateral/lateral) as well as the BDNF mRNA content in the habenula (medial/lateral). The lesion did not influence BDNF and trkB expression in the caudate-putamen, substantia nigra, nucleus accumbens (shell and core) and ventral tegmental area (VTA). Chronic imipramine reversed the lesion-induced decreases in BDNF mRNA in the DG. Chronic pramipexole increased BDNF mRNA, but decreased trkB mRNA in the VTA in lesioned rats. Furthermore, it reduced BDNF and trkB mRNA expression in the shell and core of the nucleus accumbens, BDNF mRNA in the amygdala and trkB mRNA in the caudate-putamen in these animals. The present study indicates that both the 6-OHDA-induced dopaminergic lesion and chronic pramipexole influence BDNF signalling in limbic structures, which may be related to their pro-depressive and antidepressant activity in rats, respectively.