1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+), an inhibitor of mitochondrial complex I, has been widely used as a neurotoxin for inducing a cell model of Parkinson's disease. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of 2,3,5,4'-tetrahydroxystilbene-2-O-β-D-glucoside (TSG), an active component extracted from Polygonum multiflorum, on MPP+-induced cytotoxicity in human dopaminergic neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. The results from the MTT and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) assays showed that incubating cells with 500 μM MPP+ for 24 h decreased cell viability and increased LDH leakage, whereas preincubating cells with 3.125 to 50 μM TSG for 24 h protected the cells against MPP+-induced cell damage. Using 2',7'-dichlorofluorescin diacetate (DCFH-DA) and rhodamine 123, respectively, we found that TSG inhibited both the elevation of intracellular reactive oxygen species and the disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential induced by MPP+. In addition, TSG suppressed both the upregulation of the ratio of Bax to Bcl-2 and the activation of caspase-3 induced by MPP+, and TSG inhibited apoptosis as detected by flow cytometric analysis using Annexin-V and propidium (PI) label. These results suggest that TSG may protect neurons against MPP+-induced cell death through improving mitochondrial function, decreasing oxidative stress and inhibiting apoptosis, and this may provide a potentially new strategy for preventing and treating neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease.