Poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase-1 (PARP-1) is a nuclear enzyme that has recently emerged as an important player in the mechanisms leading to postischemic neuronal death, and PARP inhibitors have been proposed as potential neuroprotective agents. With the aim of clarifying the structural basis responsible for PARP inhibition, we carried out a computational study on 46 inhibitors available through the literature. Our computational approach is composed of three parts. In the first one, representative PARP inhibitors have been docked into the crystallographic structure of the catalytic domain of PARP by using the Autodock 2.4 program. The docking studies thus carried out have provided an alignment scheme that has been instrumental for superimposing all the remaining inhibitors. Upon the basis of this alignment scheme, a quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) analysis has been carried out after electrostatic and steric interaction energies have been computed with the RECEPTOR program. The QSAR analysis yielded a predictive model able to explain much of the variance of the 46-compound data set. The inspection of the QSAR coefficients revealed that the major driving force for potent inhibition is given by the extension of the contact surface between enzyme and inhibitors while electrostatic energy and hydrogen bonding capability play a minor role. Finally, the projection of the QSAR coefficients back onto the X-ray structure of the catalytic domain of PARP provides insights into the role played by specific amino acid residues. This information will be useful to address the design of new selective and potent PARP inhibitors.