Abstract Russian knapweed is a perennial weed found in many parts of the world, including southern California. Chronic ingestion of this plant by horses has been reported to cause equine nigropallidal encephalomalacia (ENE), which is associated with a movement disorder simulating Parkinson's disease (PD). Repin, a principal ingredient purified from Russian knapweed, is a sesquiterpene lactone containing an α-methylenebutyrolactone moiety and epoxides and is a highly reactive electrophile that can readily undergo conjugation with various biological nucleophiles, such as proteins, DNA, and glutathione (GSH). We show in this study that repin is highly toxic to C57BL/6J mice and Sprague–Dawley rats and acutely induces uncoordinated locomotion associated with postural tremors, hypothermia, and inability to respond to sonic and tactile stimuli. We also show that repin intoxication reduces striatal and hippocampal GSH and increases total striatal dopamine (DA) levels in mice. Striatal microdialysis in rats, however, has demonstrated a significant reduction of extracellular DA levels. These findings, coupled with the absence of any demonstrable change in striatal DOPAC levels, suggest that repin acts by inhibiting DA release, a hypothesis that is further supported by our demonstration that, in cultured PC12 cells, repin inhibits the release of DA without affecting its uptake. We believe, therefore, that inhibition of DA release represents one of the earliest pathogenetic events in ENE, leading eventually to striatal extracellular DA denervation, oxidative stress, and degeneration of nigrostriatal pathways. Since the neurotoxic effects of repin appear to be mediated via oxidative stress, and since repin is a natural product isolated from a plant in our environment that can cause a movement disorder associated with degeneration of nigrostriatal pathways, clarification of the mechanism of repin neurotoxicity may provide new insights into our understanding of the pathogenesis of PD.