The postsynaptic density (PSD) is a cytoskeletal specialization involved in the anchoring of neurotransmitter receptors and in regulating the response of postsynaptic neurons to synaptic stimulation. The postsynaptic protein PSD-95 binds to NMDA receptor subunits NR2A and NR2B and to signaling molecules such as neuronal nitric oxide synthase and p135synGAP. We investigated the effects of transient cerebral ischemia on protein interactions involving PSD-95 and the NMDA receptor in the rat hippocampus. Ischemia followed by reperfusion resulted in a decrease in the solubility of the NMDA receptor and PSD-95 in 1% sodium deoxycholate, the decrease being greater in the vulnerable CA1 hippocampal subfield than in the less sensitive CA3/dentate gyrus regions. Solubilization of the kainic acid receptor GluR6/7 and the PSD-95 binding proteins, neuronal nitric oxide synthase and p135synGAP, also decreased following ischemia. The association between PSD-95 and NR2A and NR2B, as indicated by coimmunoprecipitation, was less in postischemic samples than in sham-operated controls. Ischemia also resulted in a decrease in the size of protein complexes containing PSD-95, but had only a small effect on the size distribution of complexes containing the NMDA receptor. The results indicate that molecular interactions involving PSD-95 and the NMDA receptor are modified by an ischemic challenge.