The neuropathology of Parkinson's Disease has been modeled in experimental animals following MPTP treatment and in dopaminergic cells in culture treated with the MPTP neurotoxic metabolite, MPP(+). MPTP through MPP(+) activates the stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway in mice and SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. Recently, it was demonstrated that CEP-1347/KT7515 attenuated MPTP-induced nigrostriatal dopaminergic neuron degeneration in mice, as well as MPTP-induced JNK phosphorylation. Presumably, CEP-1347 acts through inhibition of at least one upstream kinase within the mixed lineage kinase (MLK) family since it has been shown to inhibit MLK 1, 2 and 3 in vitro. Activation of the MLK family leads to JNK activation. In this study, the potential role of MLK and the JNK pathway was examined in MPP(+)-induced cell death of differentiated SH-SY5Y cells using CEP-1347 as a pharmacological probe and dominant negative adenoviral constructs to MLKs. CEP-1347 inhibited MPP(+)-induced cell death and the morphological features of apoptosis. CEP-1347 also prevented MPP(+)-induced JNK activation in SH-SY5Y cells. Endogenous MLK 3 expression was demonstrated in SH-SY5Y cells through protein levels and RT-PCR. Adenoviral infection of SH-SY5Y cells with a dominant negative MLK 3 construct attenuated the MPP(+)-mediated increase in activated JNK levels and inhibited neuronal death following MPP(+) addition compared to cultures infected with a control construct. Adenoviral dominant negative constructs of two other MLK family members (MLK 2 and DLK) did not protect against MPP(+)-induced cell death. These studies show that inhibition of the MLK 3/JNK pathway attenuates MPP(+)-mediated SH-SY5Y cell death in culture and supports the mechanism of action of CEP-1347 as an MLK family inhibitor.