Activation of group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR) has been implicated in the pathophysiology of acute central nervous system injury. However, the relative roles of the two group I subtypes, mGluR1 or mGluR5, in such injury has not been well examined. We compared the effects of treatment with the newly developed, selective mGluR5 antagonist 2-methyl-6-phenylethynylpyridine (MPEP) and the selective mGluR5 agonist (R,S)-2-chloro-5-hydroxyphenylglycine (CHPG) in a rat intraluminal filament model of temporary middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo). Rats were administered MPEP or CHPG i.c.v. beginning 15 or 135 min after induction of ischemia for 2 h. Infarct size was measured after either 22 or 70 h of reperfusion, and neurological function was quantified at 2, 24, 48 and 72 h. Treatment with MPEP or CHPG at 15 min reduced 24 h infarct volume by 61 and 44%, respectively. The neuroprotective effects were dose dependent. Delaying MPEP treatment until 135 min eliminated the neuroprotective effects. In other studies, using early MPEP treatment (15 min) at optimal doses, infarct volume was reduced by 44% at 72 h and this was correlated with significant neurological recovery. These data suggest that both MPEP and CHPG are neuroprotective when administered after focal cerebral ischemia. In separate, recent studies we found that although MPEP does act as an mGluR5 antagonist and blocks agonist induced phosphoinositide hydrolysis, it also serves as a non-competitive NMDA antagonist; in contrast, other results indicate that CHPG mediated neuroprotection may reflect anti-apoptotic activity. Therefore, both types of compounds may prove to have therapeutic potential for the treatment of stroke.