In Parkinson's disease (PD), the pathogenic factors oxidative stress and protein aggregation interact and culminate in the apoptotic death of (mainly catecholaminergic) neurons. The dithiolethiones comprise thiol antioxidants that are well known for their activation of the expression of a wide collection of cytoprotective genes, including genes coding for antioxidant enzymes. Given the observation that heat shock proteins (HSPs), in particular the heat shock protein 72 (HSP72), protects against cellular degeneration in various models of PD, the ability of the unsubstituted dithiolethione 1,2-dithiole-3-thione (D3T) to stimulate heat shock protein gene and protein expression was studied using the dopaminergic PC12 cell line. As anticipated, D3T stimulated the expression of the antioxidant enzyme NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1). Quantitative PCR analysis revealed that D3T stimulates the expression of the inducible, cytoplasmic HSP72. Moreover, D3T strongly potentiated HSP72 gene and protein expression in heat-stressed cells. Taken together, our data show that, in addition to antioxidant enzymes, D3T stimulates the expression of HSP72, a chaperone shown to be neuroprotective in various models of PD, in particular under conditions of cellular stress. Thus, the broad range manipulation of endogenous cellular defense mechanisms, through D3T, may represent an innovative approach to therapeutic intervention in PD.