Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive and debilitating neurodegenerative disorder that affects over one million people in the United States. Previous studies, carried out in young adult rats, have shown that calcitriol, the active metabolite of vitamin D, can be neuroprotective in 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) models of PD. However, as PD usually affects older individuals, the ability of calcitriol to promote dopaminergic recovery was examined in lesioned young adult (4 month old), middle-aged (14 month old) and aged (22 month old) rats. Animals were given a single injection of 12 μg 6-OHDA into the right striatum. Four weeks later they were administered vehicle or calcitriol (1.0 μg/kg, s.c.) once a day for eight consecutive days. In vivo microdialysis experiments were carried out three weeks after the calcitriol or vehicle treatments to measure potassium and amphetamine evoked overflow of DA from both the left and right striata. In control animals treated with 6-OHDA and vehicle there were significant reductions in evoked overflow of DA on the lesioned side of the brain compared to the contralateral side. The calcitriol treatments significantly increased evoked overflow of DA from the lesioned striatum in both the young adult and middle-aged rats. However, the calcitriol treatments did not significantly augment DA overflow in the aged rats. Postmortem tissue levels of striatal DA were also increased in the young and middle-aged animals, but not in the aged animals. In the substantia nigra, the calcitriol treatments led to increased levels of DA in all three age groups. Thus, the effects of calcitriol were similar in the young adult and middle-aged animals, but in the aged animals the effects of calcitriol were diminished. These results suggest that calcitriol may help promote recovery of dopaminergic functioning in injured nigrostriatal neurons; however, the effectiveness of calcitriol may be reduced in aging.