High-affinity binding sites for recombinant human NGF (rhNGF) were studied in the caudate-putamen of the adult rat and rabbit. Displaceable 125I-rhNGF binding sites were densely distributed throughout the caudate-putamen and were 2–3-fold more prevalant in the ventrolateral and lateral than in the medial caudate-putamen. The amount of nondisplaceable binding did not vary throughout the caudate- putamen. The medial-to-lateral receptor gradient was correlated (r = +0.99) with a 2–3-fold medial-to-lateral increase in ChAT activity. In contrast, NGF-like immunoreactivity (NGF-LI) was prevalent but uniformly distributed in the caudate-putamen. Lesions of intrinsic cholinergic neurons by quinolinic acid produced extensive gliosis in the medial, central, and lateral caudate-putamen, yet 125I-rhNGF binding was decreased in each of these regions. The activity of ChAT and 125I-rhNGF binding throughout the caudate-putamen were each decreased by 40% following quinolinic acid. Binding was not changed after 70–77% dopamine nerve terminal depletions induced by 6- hydroxydopamine, demonstrating a nonglial, nondopaminergic locus for striatal NGF binding sites. The cholinergiclike topography of NGF binding sites throughout the intact caudate-putamen, the parallel decreases of cholinergic neurons and NGF binding sites following intrinsic neuronal loss, and the uniform neostriatal gradient of NGF-LI are consistent with the trophic role of endogenous NGF for cholinergic interneurons of the caudate-putamen.