Transient cerebral ischemia leads to increased expression of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). Contradicting studies attributed neuroprotective and neurotoxic roles to ODC after ischemia. Using antisense oligonucleotides (ODNs), the current study evaluated the functional role of ODC in the process of neuronal damage after transient focal cerebral ischemia induced by middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Transient MCAO significantly increased the ODC immunoreactive protein levels and catalytic activity in the ipsilateral cortex, which were completely prevented by the infusion of antisense ODN specific for ODC. Transient MCAO in rats infused with ODC antisense ODN increased the infarct volume, motor deficits, and mortality compared with the sense or random ODN-infused controls. Results of the current study support a neuroprotective or recovery role, or both, for ODC after transient focal ischemia.