The effects of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) and 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+) on activities of enzyme complexes in the electron transport system were studied using isolated mitochondrial preparations from C57BL/6J mouse brains. Both MPTP and MPP+ dose-dependently inhibited activity of NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase (EC 184.108.40.206). The inhibition was reversible. Preincubation of freeze-thawed mitochondria with MPTP or MPP+ had no effect on the inhibition; however, when nonfrozen mitochondria were used, NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase activity was reduced to 46% of that in the nonincubated sample after a 5-min preincubation with MPTP and to 77% of that in the nonincubated sample after a 5-min preincubation with MPP+. Kinetic analyses revealed that inhibition of MPTP was noncompetitive and that of MPP+ uncompetitive with respect to NADH. On the other hand, inhibition of MPTP was uncompetitive and that of MPP+ noncompetitive with respect to ubiquinone. Succinate-ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex II), dihydroubiquinone-cytochrome c oxidoreductase (complex III), and ferrocytochrome c-oxygen oxidoreductase (EC 220.127.116.11) activities were either slightly inhibited or not inhibited by MPTP or MPP+. The significance of these findings is discussed in relation to the mechanism of MPTP-induced neuronal degeneration.