The brain's response to ischemia, which helps determine clinical outcome after stroke, is regulated partly by competing genetic programs that respectively promote cell survival and delayed cell death. Many genes involved in this response have been identified individually or systematically, providing insights into the molecular basis of ischemic injury and potential targets for therapy. The development of microarray systems for gene expression profiling permits screening of large numbers of genes for possible involvement in biological or pathological processes. Therefore, we used an oligodeoxynucleotide-based microarray consisting of 374 human genes, most implicated previously in apoptosis or related events, to detect alterations in gene expression in the hippocampus of rats subjected to 15 minutes of global cerebral ischemia followed by up to 72 hours of reperfusion. We found 1.7-fold or greater increases in the expression of 57 genes and 1.7-fold or greater decreases in the expression of 34 genes at 4, 24, or 72 hours after ischemia. The number of induced genes increased from 4 to 72 hours, whereas the number of repressed genes decreased. The induced genes included genes involved in protein synthesis, genes mutated in hereditary human diseases, proapoptotic genes, antiapoptotic genes, injury-response genes, receptors, ion channels, and enzymes. We detected transcriptional induction of several genes implicated previously in cerebral ischemia, including ALG2, APP, CASP3, CLU, ERCC3, GADD34, GADD153, IGFBP2, TIAR, VEGF, and VIM, as well as other genes not so implicated. We also found coinduction of several groups of related genes that might represent functional modules within the ischemic neuronal transcriptome, including VEGF and its receptor, NRP1; the IGF1 receptor and the IGF1-binding protein IGFBP2; Rb, the Rb-binding protein E2F1, and the E2F-related transcription factor, TFDP1; the CACNB3 and CACNB4 β-subunits of the voltage-gated calcium channel; and caspase-3 and its substrates, ACINUS, FEM1, and GSN. To test the hypothesis that genes identified through this approach might have roles in the pathophysiology of cerebral ischemia, we measured expression of the products of two induced genes not heretofore implicated in cerebral ischemia - GRB2, an adapter protein involved in growth-factor signaling pathways, and SMN1, which participates in RNA processing and is deleted in most cases of spinal muscular atrophy. Western analysis showed enhanced expression of both proteins in hippocampus at 24 to 72 hours after ischemia, and SMN1 was localized by immunohistochemistry to hippocampal neurons. These results suggest that microarray analysis of gene expression may be useful for elucidating novel molecular mediators of cell death and survival in the ischemic brain.