Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) cause a wide spectrum of toxic effects in the brain through undefined mechanisms. Exposure to the PCB mixture Aroclor-1254 (A1254) increases the repressor element-1 silencing transcription factor (REST) expression, leading to neuronal death. This study sought to understand the sequence of some molecular mechanisms to determine whether A1254 could increase REST expression and the cytoprotective effect of the phorbol ester tetradecanoylphorbol acetate (TPA) on A1254-induced toxicity in SH-SY5Y cells. As shown by Western blot analysis, A1254 (10 μg/ml) downregulates extracellular signal-related kinase 2 (ERK2) phosphorylation in a time-dependent manner, thereby triggering the binding of specificity protein 1 (Sp1) and Sp3 to the REST gene promoter as revealed by chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis. This chain of events results in an increase in REST mRNA and cell death, as assessed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and dimethylthiazolyl-2–5-diphenyltetrazolium-bromide assay, respectively. Accordingly, TPA prevented both the A1254-induced decrease in ERK2 phosphorylation and the A1254-induced increase in Sp1, Sp3, and REST protein expression. After 48 hr, TPA prevented A1254-induced cell death. ERK2 overexpression counteracted the A1254-induced increase in Sp1 and Sp3 protein expression and prevented A1254-induced Sp1 and Sp3 binding to the REST gene promoter, thus counteracting the increase in REST mRNA expression induced by the toxicant. In neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells, ERK2/Sp1/SP3/REST is a new pathway underlying the neurotoxic effect of PCB. The ERK2/Sp1/Sp3/REST pathway, which underlies A1254-induced neuronal death, might represent a new drug signaling cascade in PCB-induced neuronal toxicity. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.