In an attempt to clarify the protective effect of puerarin on toxin-insulted dopaminergic neuronal death, this present study was carried out by using a typical Parkinson's disease (PD) model - 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium iodide (MPP(+))-induced dopaminergic SH-SY5Y cellular model. Data are presented, which showed that puerarin up-regulated Akt phosphorylation in both of MPP(+)-treated and non-MPP(+)-treated cells. The presence of PI3K inhibitor LY294002 completely blocked puerarin-induced activation of Akt phosphorylation. Moreover, puerarin decreased MPP(+)-induced cell death, which was blocked by phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002. We further demonstrated that puerarin protected against MPP(+)-induced p53 nuclear accumulation, Puma (p53-upregulated mediator of apoptosis) and Bax expression and caspase-3-dependent programmed cell death (PCD). This protection was blocked by applying a PI3K/Akt inhibitor. Additionally, it was Pifithrin-α, but not Pifithrin-μ, which blocked MPP(+)-induced Puma and Bax expression, caspase-3 activation and cell death. Collectively, these data suggest that the activation of PI3K/Akt pathway is involved in the protective effect of puerarin against MPP(+)-induced neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cell death through inhibiting nuclear p53 accumulation and subsequently caspase-3-dependent PCD. Puerarin might be a potential therapeutic agent for PD.