Recent reports have revealed an involvement of microglial cells in dopaminergic neurodegeneration. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that interleukin-18 (IL-18) plays a role in the microglial activation. The present study investigated microglial activation and dopaminergic neurodegeneration in substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc) following 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) treatment in wild type (WT) and IL-18 knockout (KO) mice. The number of dopaminergic neuron loss in WT mice was significantly decreased 7 days after MPTP treatment compared with IL-18 KO mice. In WT mice microglial activation occurred in the SN at 1 day after MPTP treatment, progressively increased within the SNpc until 7 days post MPTP, and subsided by 14 days. In contrast, in IL-18 KO mice microglial activation occurred in the SN at 1 day post-MPTP, and decreased by 7 days, earlier than in WT mice. The lesser microglial activation and dopaminergic neurodegeneration in the SNpc following MPTP treatment in WT indicates the possibility that IL-18 may participate in microglial activation and dopaminergic neurodegeneration.