Decreased cerebral blood flow, hence decreased oxygen and glucose, leads to ischemic brain injury via complex pathophysiological events, including excitotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, increased intracellular Ca2+, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Each of these could also contribute to cerebral edema, which is the primary cause of patient mortality after stroke. In vitro brain slices are widely used to study ischemia. Here we introduce a slice model to investigate ischemia-induced edema. Significant water gain was induced in coronal slices of rat brain by 5 min of oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD) at 35 degrees C, with progressive edema formation after return to normoxic, normoglycemic medium. Edema increased with increasing injury severity, determined by OGD duration (5-30 min). Underlying factors were assessed using glutamate-receptor antagonists (AP5/CNQX), blockade of mitochondrial permeability transition [cyclosporin A (CsA) versus FK506], inhibition of Na+/Ca2+ exchange (KB-R7943), and ROS scavengers (ascorbate, Trolox, dimethylthiourea, Tempol). All agents except KB-R7943 and FK506 significantly attenuated edema when applied after OGD; KB-R7943 was effective when applied before OGD. Significantly, complete prevention of ischemia-induced edema was achieved with a cocktail of AP5/CNQX, CsA and Tempo applied after OGD, which demonstrates the involvement of multiple, additive mechanisms. The efficacy of this cocktail further shows the potential value of combination therapies for the treatment of cerebral ischemia.