Our previous findings suggest that sphingosine kinase 2 (SPK2) mediates ischemic tolerance and autophagy in cerebral preconditioning. The aim of this study was to determine by which mechanism SPK2 activates autophagy in neural cells. In both primary murine cortical neurons and HT22 hippocampal neuronal cells, overexpression of SPK2 increased LC3II and enhanced the autophagy flux. SPK2 overexpression protected cortical neurons against oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD) injury, as evidenced by improvement of neuronal morphology, increased cell viability and reduced lactate dehydrogenase release. The inhibition of autophagy effectively suppressed the neuroprotective effect of SPK2. SPK2 overexpression reduced the co-immunoprecipitation of Beclin-1 and Bcl-2, while Beclin-1 knockdown inhibited SPK2-induced autophagy. Both co-immunoprecipitation and GST pull-down analysis suggest that SPK2 directly interacts with Bcl-2. SPK2 might interact to Bcl-2 in the cytoplasm. Notably, an SPK2 mutant with L219A substitution in its putative BH3 domain was not able to activate autophagy. A Tat peptide fused to an 18-amino acid peptide encompassing the native, but not the L219A mutated BH3 domain of SPK2 activated autophagy in neural cells. The Tat-SPK2 peptide also protected neurons against OGD injury through autophagy activation. These results suggest that SPK2 interacts with Bcl-2 via its BH3 domain, thereby dissociating it from Beclin-1 and activating autophagy. The observation that Tat-SPK2 peptide designed from the BH3 domain of SPK2 activates autophagy and protects neural cells against OGD injury suggest that this structure may provide the basis for a novel class of therapeutic agents against ischemic stroke.