The distribution of dopamine-containing processes in the striatum of fetal and neonatal cats was studied by immunohistochemical and glyoxylic acid histofluorescence methods and compared to the distribution of acetylcholinesterase (acetylcholine acetylhydrolase, EC 188.8.131.52) observed by thiocholine histochemistry in the same or serially adjoining sections. Both methods for demonstrating the dopamine innervation revealed the characteristic patchwork of dopamine "islands" in the caudoputamen, in which catecholamine histofluorescence or tyrosine hydroxylase [tyrosine 3-monooxygenase; L-tyrosine, tetrahydropteridine:oxygen oxidoreductase (3-hydroxylating), EC 184.108.40.206]-like immunoreactivity was concentrated into 0.2- to 0.6-mm-wide patches. Both methods also demonstrated a high degree of patterning of the dopamine innervation in the ventral striatum, including the nucleus accumbens septi. A detailed and striking match was found between these configurations and the compartmental distribution of acetylcholinesterase observed in the caudoputamen and ventral striatum of the same brains. The correspondence between the dopamine and acetylcholinesterase figures was most obvious in the fetal brains, in which the background acetylcholinesterase staining was lightest, but matches between the dopamine islands and acetylcholinesterase patches could still be seen in the kittens. There was no clear alignment of striatal cell bodies stained for acetylcholinesterase with either the dopamine or the acetylcholinesterase-positive patches. Nor was there an obvious correspondence between dopamine and acetylcholinesterase in the striatal background matrix. We conclude that, at least during ontogenesis, it is the clustered arrangements of dopamine and acetylcholinesterase that are, in particular, tightly linked, and we suggest that information about the maturation of these clusters may be crucial in assessing the functions of striatal dopamine and acetylcholinesterase in the adult.