Dysfunction of mitochondrial complex I is associated with a wide spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease (PD). In rodents, inhibition of complex I leads to degeneration of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc), as seen in PD, through activation of mitochondria-dependent apoptotic molecular pathways. In this scenario, complex I blockade increases the soluble pool of cytochrome c in the mitochondrial intermembrane space through oxidative mechanisms, whereas activation of pro-cell death protein Bax is actually necessary to trigger neuronal death by permeabilizing the outer mitochondrial membrane and releasing cytochrome c into the cytosol. Activation of Bax after complex I inhibition relies on its transcriptional induction and translocation to the mitochondria. How complex I deficiency leads to Bax activation is currently unknown. Using gene-targeted mice, we show that the tumor suppressor p53 mediates Bax transcriptional induction after PD-related complex I blockade in vivo, but it does not participate in Bax mitochondrial translocation in this model, either by a transcription-independent mechanism or through the induction of BH3-only proteins Puma or Noxa. Instead, Bax mitochondrial translocation in this model relies mainly on the JNK-dependent activation of the BH3-only protein Bim. Targeting either Bax transcriptional induction or Bax mitochondrial translocation results in a marked attenuation of SNpc dopaminergic cell death caused by complex I inhibition. These results provide further insight into the pathogenesis of PD neurodegeneration and identify molecular targets of potential therapeutic significance for this disabling neurological illness.