The present study investigated the neuroprotective and neurorestorative effects of Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb 761) and its two components ginkgolides A (BN52020) and B (BN52021) in mice. 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) (30 mg/kg/d i.p. for six days) significantly reduced striatal dopamine (DA) levels in C57 mice measured by high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection (HPLC-EC). When C57 mice were pretreated with EGb 761 (20, 50, 100 mg/kg/d i.p.) for 7 days and then treated with the same extract 30 min before MPTP injection for 6 days, the neurotoxic effect of MPTP was antagonized in a dose-dependent fashion. Similar treatment with ginkgolides A and B (5, 10, 50 mg/kg/d i.p.) showed no protective effect. When C57 mice were treated with EGb 761 (50 mg/kg/d i.p.) after MPTP-lesion, the recovery of striatal dopamine (DA) levels was accelerated. However, similar treatment with ginkgolides A or B (10 mg/kg/d i.p.) did not show any effect. EGb 761, but not ginkgolides A and B, nonselectively inhibited mouse brain MAO activity in vitro (IC50 = 36.45 +/- 1.56 microg/ml) tested by an improved fluorimetric assay. The results demonstrate that EGb 761 administered before or after MPTP treatment effectively protects against MPTP-induced nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurotoxicity and that the inhibitory effect of EGb 761 on brain MAO may be involved in its neuroprotective effect.