The molecular mechanisms leading to neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease remain elusive. Deletion and mutations of DJ-1 (PARK7) have been reported to cause autosomal recessive familial Parkinson’s disease. Wildtype DJ-1 scavenges H2O2 by cysteine oxidation in response to oxidative stress, and thus confers neuroprotection. Activation of the transcription factor NF-E2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) has also been shown to be important for protection against oxidative stress in many models of neurodegenerative diseases. Previous data indicate that DJ-1 affects the transcriptional functions and stability of Nrf2. However, this observation has not been confirmed. In the current study, the role of DJ-1 in the regulation of Nrf2 is examined in primary cultured neurons, astrocytes and in vivo. The prototypical Nrf2 activator tBHQ protected primary cortical neurons derived from DJ-1-knockout (KO) as well as DJ-1 wildtype mice by activation of Nrf2-ARE pathway. Nrf2 nuclear translocation, robust increases in canonical Nrf2-driven genes and proteins, and dramatic activation of the ARE reporter gene, hPAP, were observed after tBHQ treatment. These results were further confirmed by siRNA-mediated DJ-1 knockdown in primary cortical astrocytes from ARE-hPAP mice and tBHQ administration into the striatum of mouse brain. In addition, overexpression of Nrf2 with adenovirus preferentially in astrocytes from DJ-1-KO mice enhanced survival of neurons under oxidative insults. These findings indicate that activation of the Nrf2–ARE pathway is independent of DJ-1, and Nrf2 activation is a potential therapeutic target to prevent neurodegeneration in sporadic and DJ-1 familial Parkinson’s disease.