Abstract: Nerve growth factor (NGF) prevents apoptosis induced by the oxidant peroxynitrite in undifferentiated PC12 rat pheochromocytoma cells. Previous studies have shown that activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) by NGF via the TrkA receptor tyrosine kinase protects PC12 cells from serum deprivation-induced apoptosis. We found that two PI 3-kinase inhibitors, wortmannin and LY294002, eliminated the protection NGF provided against peroxynitrite-induced apoptosis at concentrations consistent with their effectiveness as PI 3-kinase inhibitors. When the activity of PI 3-kinase was assayed in phosphotyrosine immunoprecipitates after treatment of PC12 cells with peroxynitrite, PI 3-kinase activity was reduced by 50% of that detected in control cells, whereas PI 3-kinase activity in NGF-treated cells was unaffected by peroxynitrite. If an antibody against PI 3-kinase was used to immunoprecipitate the enzyme, treatment with peroxynitrite had no effect on activity. Therefore, peroxynitrite appeared to disrupt interactions between PI 3-kinase and phosphotyrosine proteins, rather than directly inhibiting the enzyme. NGF also activates p21Ras-dependent pathways, but this did not appear to be required for NGF to exert its protective effect against peroxynitrite. PC12 cells expressing a dominant inhibitory mutant of p21Ras were equally susceptible to peroxynitrite-induced apoptosis, which was prevented by NGF. Wortmannin was also able to block the protective effect of NGF in the p21Ras mutant cell line. Although many signaling pathways are activated by NGF, these results suggest that a PI 3-kinase-dependent pathway is important for inhibiting peroxynitrite-induced apoptosis.