The oxidation of NAD+-linked substrates by rat brain mitochondria is completely inhibited by pre-incubation with 0.5 mM N-methyl-4-phenylpyridine (MPP+). The effect is dependent on the integrity of the mitochondria because far higher concentrations of MPP+ are required to inhibit NADH oxidation in inverted mitochondria or isolated inner membrane preparations. The reason for this difference in behavior has been traced to a novel system for the uptake of MPP+ into mitochondria against a concentration gradient. The uptake system is energized by the transmembrane potential, as shown by the fact that valinomycin plus K+, which collapses this gradient, abolishes MPP+ uptake, while agents which collapse the proton gradient have no effect on the process. If an uncoupler is added to mitochondria preloaded with MPP+, efflux of the latter occurs with the concentration gradient. The uptake system has been studied in liver, whole brain, cortex, and midbrain preparations from rats. It may be readily distinguished from the synaptic dopamine reuptake system, since the former is blocked by uncouplers and respiratory inhibitors, but not by dopamine or mazindol, whereas the synaptic system is blocked by mazindol and competitively inhibited by dopamine but is not affected by respiratory inhibitors or uncouplers. Energy-driven uptake of MPP+ by brain mitochondria may be a crucial step in the complex sequence of events leading to the neurotoxic actions of its precursor, MPTP.