Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by progressive dopamine (DA) neuron loss in the SNc. In contrast, DA neurons in the VTA are relatively protected from neurodegeneration, but the underlying mechanisms for this resilience remain poorly understood. Recent work suggests that expression of the vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2) selectively impacts midbrain DA neuron vulnerability. We investigated whether altered DA neuron VGLUT2 expression determines neuronal resilience in rats exposed to rotenone, a mitochondrial complex I inhibitor and toxicant model of PD. We discovered that VTA/SNc DA neurons that expressed VGLUT2 are more resilient to rotenone-induced DA neurodegeneration. Surprisingly, the density of neurons with detectable VGLUT2 expression in the VTA and SNc increases in response to rotenone. Furthermore, dopaminergic terminals within the NAc, where the majority of VGLUT2-expressing DA neurons project, exhibit greater resilience compared with DA terminals in the caudate/putamen. More broadly, VGLUT2-expressing terminals are protected throughout the striatum from rotenone-induced degeneration. Together, our data demonstrate that a distinct subpopulation of VGLUT2-expressing DA neurons are relatively protected from rotenone neurotoxicity. Rotenone-induced upregulation of the glutamatergic machinery in VTA and SNc neurons and their projections may be part of a broader neuroprotective mechanism. These findings offer a putative new target for neuronal resilience that can be manipulated to prevent toxicant-induced DA neurodegeneration in PD.