A mechanism that triggers neuronal apoptosis has been characterized. We report that the cell cycle-regulated protein kinase Cdc2 is expressed in postmitotic granule neurons of the developing rat cerebellum and that Cdc2 mediates apoptosis of cerebellar granule neurons upon the suppression of neuronal activity. Cdc2 catalyzes the phosphorylation of the BH3-only protein BAD at a distinct site, serine 128, and thereby induces BAD-mediated apoptosis in primary neurons by opposing growth factor inhibition of the apoptotic effect of BAD. The phosphorylation of BAD serine 128 inhibits the interaction of growth factor-induced serine 136-phosphorylated BAD with 14-3-3 proteins. Our results suggest that a critical component of the cell cycle couples an apoptotic signal to the cell death machinery via a phosphorylation-dependent mechanism that may generally modulate protein-protein interactions.