Cerebral ischemia stimulates neurogenesis in proliferative zones of the rodent forebrain. To identify the signaling factors involved, cerebral cortical cultures prepared from embryonic mouse brains were deprived of oxygen. Hypoxia increased bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation into cells that expressed proliferation markers and immature neuronal markers and that lacked evidence of DNA damage or caspase-3 activation. Hypoxia-conditioned medium and stem cell factor (SCF), which was present in hypoxia-conditioned medium at increased levels, also stimulated BrdU incorporation into normoxic cultures. The SCF receptor, c-kit, was expressed in neuronal cultures and in neuroproliferative zones of the adult rat brain, and in vivo administration of SCF increased BrdU labeling of immature neurons in these regions. Cerebral hypoxia and ischemia may stimulate neurogenesis through trophic factors, including SCF.