Excessive compression, the main cause of intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, affected endogenous repair of the intervertebral disc. Pioglitazone (PGZ) is the agonist of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ, which has been widely used in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. The present study aim at investigating whether pioglitazone has protective effects on compression-mediated cell apoptosis in nucleus pulposus mesenchymal stem cells (NP-MSCs) and further exploring the possible underlying mechanism. Our results indicated that the isolated cells satisfied the criteria of MSC stated by the International Society for Cellular Therapy. Besides, our research revealed that pioglitazone could protect cell viability, cell proliferation of NP-MSCs and alleviated the toxic effects caused by compression. The actin stress fibers was suppressed obviously under compression, and pioglitazone alleviated the adverse outcomes. Pioglitazone exerted protective effects on compression-induced NP-MSCs apoptosis according to annexin V/PI double-staining and TUNEL assays. Pioglitazone suppressed compression-induced NP-MSCs oxidative stress, including decreasing compression-induced overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and malondialdehyde (MDA), and alleviated compression-induced mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) decrease. Ultrastructure collapse of the mitochondria exhibited a notable improvement by pioglitazone in compression-induced NP-MSCs according to transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Furthermore, the molecular results showed that pioglitazone significantly decreased the expression of apoptosis-associated proteins, including cyto.cytochrome c, Bax, cleaved caspase-9, and cleaved caspase-3, and promoted Bcl-2 expression. These results indicated that pioglitazone alleviated compression-induced NP-MSCs apoptosis by suppressing oxidative stress and the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, which may be a valuable candidate for the treatment of IVD degeneration.