The only treatment of patients with acute ischemic stroke is thrombolytic therapy, which benefits only a fraction of stroke patients. Both human and experimental studies indicate that ischemic stroke involves secondary inflammation that significantly contributes to the outcome after ischemic insult. Minocycline is a semisynthetic second-generation tetracycline that exerts antiinflammatory effects that are completely separate from its antimicrobial action. Because tetracycline treatment is clinically well tolerated, we investigated whether minocycline protects against focal brain ischemia with a wide therapeutic window. Using a rat model of transient middle cerebral artery occlusion, we show that daily treatment with minocycline reduces cortical infarction volume by 76 +/- 22% when the treatment is started 12 h before ischemia and by 63 +/- 35% when started even 4 h after the onset of ischemia. The treatment inhibits morphological activation of microglia in the area adjacent to the infarction, inhibits induction of IL-1beta-converting enzyme, and reduces cyclooxygenase-2 expression and prostaglandin E(2) production. Minocycline had no effect on astrogliosis or spreading depression, a wave of ionic transients thought to contribute to enlargement of cortical infarction. Treatment with minocycline may act directly on brain cells, because cultured primary neurons were also salvaged from glutamate toxicity. Minocycline may represent a prototype of an antiinflammatory compound that provides protection against ischemic stroke and has a clinically relevant therapeutic window.