Oxidative stress is believed to greatly contribute to the pathogenesis of various diseases, including neurodegeneration. Impairment of mitochondrial energy production and increased mitochondrial oxidative damage are considered early pathological events that lead to neurodegeneration. Manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD, SOD2) is a mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme that converts toxic superoxide to hydrogen peroxide. To investigate the pathological role of mitochondrial oxidative stress in the central nervous system, we generated brain-specific SOD2-deficient mice (B-
Sod2−/−) using nestin-Cre-loxpsystem. B- Sod2−/−showed perinatal death, along with severe growth retardation. Interestingly, these mice exhibited spongiform neurodegeneration in motor cortex, hippocampus, and brainstem, accompanied by gliosis. In addition, the mutant mice had markedly decreased mitochondrial complex II activity, but not complex I or IV, in the brain based on enzyme histochemistry. Furthermore, brain lipid peroxidation was significantly increased in the B- Sod2−/−, without any compensatory alterations of the activities of other antioxidative enzymes, such as catalase or glutathione peroxidase. These results suggest that SOD2 protects the neural system from oxidative stress in the perinatal stage and is essential for infant survival and central neural function in mice.