Abstract The transcription factor E2F1 mRNA and protein levels increased in rat cortical neurons in response to dopamine (DA)- or 6-hydroxydopamine (OHDA)-evoked apoptosis. Increased E2F1 protein was detected in the nucleus of neurons by double fluorescent immunocytochemistry using antibodies to E2F1 and NeuN. DA and 6-OHDA induced caspase-3-mediated apoptosis of cortical neurons which was attenuated by the addition of antioxidants or caspase-3 inhibitors to the cultures. Antioxidants prevented DA-evoked neuronal apoptosis, and also attenuated the increase in E2F1 expression. These findings suggest that increased expression of the transcription factor E2F1 may serve as a death signal during DA-evoked neuronal apoptosis.