Cerebellar granule neurons depend on insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) for their survival. However, the mechanism underlying the neuroprotective effects of IGF-I is presently unclear. Here we show that IGF-I protects granule neurons by suppressing key elements of the intrinsic (mitochondrial) death pathway. IGF-I blocked activation of the executioner caspase-3 and the intrinsic initiator caspase-9 in primary cerebellar granule neurons deprived of serum and depolarizing potassium. IGF-I inhibited cytochrome c release from mitochondria and prevented its redistribution to neuronal processes. The effects of IGF-I on cytochrome c release were not mediated by blockade of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore, because IGF-I failed to inhibit mitochondrial swelling or depolarization. In contrast, IGF-I blocked induction of the BH3-only Bcl-2 family member, Bim (Bcl-2 interacting mediator of cell death), a mediator of Bax-dependent cytochrome c release. The suppression of Bim expression by IGF-I did not involve inhibition of the c-Jun transcription factor. Instead, IGF-I prevented activation of the forkhead family member, FKHRL1, another transcriptional regulator of Bim. Finally, adenoviral-mediated expression of dominant-negative AKT activated FKHRL1 and induced expression of Bim. These data suggest that IGF-I signaling via AKT promotes survival of cerebellar granule neurons by blocking the FKHRL1-dependent transcription of Bim, a principal effector of the intrinsic death-signaling cascade.