Although adrenal medullary chromaffin cells have been used extensively for intracerebral grafting, their survival has generally been poor. Improved survival of the implanted cells has been achieved by exposing the chromaffin cells to NGF in vivo. Culture studies have shown, however, that chromaffin cells are converted into sympathetic neurons when NGF is included in the medium. The degree to which such a transdifferentiation may occur in vivo has not been determined. We assessed the effects of cografting chromaffin cells with primary fibroblasts genetically engineered to express NGF. Chromaffin cells from 10 d old rats were implanted with NGF-producing or beta- galactosidase-producing primary fibroblasts (control fibroblasts) into the striatum of 6-hydroxydopamine treated adult rats of the same strain. Eight weeks postgrafting, chromaffin cells cografted with NGF- producing fibroblasts displayed many of the features of mature sympathetic neurons such as large somata, long processes, transmitter vesicles similar to those found in neurons, and positive immunolabeling for the neuronal markers neurofilament, MAP2 and SCG10. Chromaffin- derived neuron number was also significantly enhanced in the presence of NGF-producing fibroblasts. While control fibroblasts were also found to increase chromaffin cell number above that of chromaffin cells grafted alone, the control fibroblasts did not induce neuronal transdifferentiation. These results demonstrate that chromaffin cells cografted with NGF-producing fibroblasts undergo transdifferentiation in vivo and express many characteristics of mature sympathetic neurons. The consequences of this transdifferentiation on the long term survival and function of the transplanted cells in vivo remain to be clarified.