Monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes catalyze the oxidative deamination of amines and neurotransmitters and inhibitors of MAO are useful as neuroprotectants. This work evaluates the human MAO-catalyzed oxidation of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP), a dopaminergic neurotoxin, to the directly-acting neurotoxic metabolites, 1-methyl-4-phenyl-2,3-dihydropyridinium (MPDP(+)) and 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP(+)) measured by High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), and this approach is subsequently used as a new method for screening of MAO inhibitors and protective agents. Oxidation of MPTP by human MAO-B was more efficient than by MAO-A. R-Deprenyl, a known neuroprotectant, norharman (β-carboline), 5-nitroindazole and menadione (vitamin K3) inhibited MAO-B and reduced the formation of toxic pyridinium cations. Clorgyline and the β-carbolines, harman and norharman, inhibited the oxidation of MPTP by MAO-A. Cigarette smoke, as well as the naturally occurring β-carbolines (norharman and harman) isolated from smoke and coffee inhibited the oxidation of MPTP by MAO-B and/or MAO-A, suggesting protective effects against MPTP. The results show the suitability of the approach used to search for new MAO inhibitors with eventual neuroprotective activity.