The Na+, K+-ATPase (Na+, K+-pump) plays critical roles in maintaining ion homeostasis. Blocking the Na+, K+-pump may lead to apoptosis. By contrast, whether an apoptotic insult may affect the Na+, K+-pump activity is largely undefined. In cultured cortical neurons, the Na+, K+-pump activity measured as a membrane current Ipump was time-dependently suppressed by apoptotic insults including serum deprivation, staurosporine, and C2-ceramide, concomitant with depletion of intracellular ATP and production of reactive oxygen species. Signifying a putative relationship among these events, Ipump was highly sensitive to changes in ATP and reactive oxygen species levels. Moreover, the apoptosis-associated Na+, K+-pump failure and serum deprivation-induced neuronal death were antagonized by pyruvate and succinate in ATP- and reactive-oxygen-species-dependent manners. We suggest that failure of the Na+, K+-pump as a result of a combination of energy deficiency and production of reactive oxygen species is a common event in the apoptotic cascade; preserving the pump activity provides a neuroprotective strategy in certain pathological conditions.