Mutations in the PARK2 (parkin) gene are responsible for an autosomal recessive form of Parkinson's disease. The parkin protein is a RING-in-between-RING E3 ubiquitin ligase that exhibits low basal activity. We describe the crystal structure of full-length rat parkin. The structure shows parkin in an autoinhibited state and provides insight into how it is activated. RING0 occludes the ubiquitin acceptor site Cys(431) in RING2, whereas a repressor element of parkin binds RING1 and blocks its E2-binding site. Mutations that disrupted these inhibitory interactions activated parkin both in vitro and in cells. Parkin is neuroprotective, and these findings may provide a structural and mechanistic framework for enhancing parkin activity.