Focal cerebral ischemia activates the nuclear protein poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) by single DNA strand breaks which leads to energy depletion and cell necrosis. Deletion or inhibition of PARP protects against ischemic brain injury. Here we examined the neuroprotective effect of PJ34, a novel potent inhibitor of PARP in vitro and in vivo. Serum-free primary neuronal cultures derived from rat cortex (E15-17) and kept in culture for 10 days were exposed to oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD) in vitro. Neuronal injury was quantified by LDH release after 24 h. Pretreatment with 30-1000 nM PJ34 significantly protected from OGD-induced cell injury in a dose-dependent manner. For in vivo experiments SV/129 mice were treated with PJ34 (50 microg) by intraperitoneal injection 2 h before 1 h middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) and again 6 h later. Twenty-three h after reperfusion ischemic injury was significantly decreased compared to vehicle-treated controls (infarct volume reduction of 40%, p<0.05). Similarly, in a rat model of MCAo (2 h occlusion followed by up to 22 h reperfusion), PJ34 administration (10 mg/kg i.v.) significantly reduced infarct size, and the effect of the drug was maintained even if it was given as late as 10 min prior to reperfusion time. PJ34 significantly protected in a 4 h, but not in a 24 h permanent occlusion model. In conclusion, PJ34, a novel, potent inhibitor of PARP exerts massive neuroprotective agents, with a significant therapeutic window of opportunity. The present work strengthens the concept that pharmacological PARP inhibition may be a suitable approach for the treatment of acute stroke in man.