Cerebral microvessels have a unique ultrastructure form, which allows for the close relationship of the endothelium and blood elements to the neurons they serve, via intervening astrocytes. To focal ischemia, the cerebral microvasculature rapidly displays multiple dynamic responses. Immediate events include breakdown of the primary endothelial cell permeability barrier, with transudation of plasma, expression of endothelial cell-leukocyte adhesion receptors, loss of endothelial cell and astrocyte integrin receptors, loss of their matrix ligands, expression of members of several matrix-degrading protease families, and the appearance of receptors associated with angiogenesis and neovascularization. These events occur pari passu with neuron injury. Alterations in the microvessel matrix after the onset of ischemia also suggest links to changes in nonvascular cell viability. Microvascular obstruction within the ischemic territory occurs after occlusion and reperfusion of the feeding arteries ("focal no-reflow" phenomenon). This can result from extrinsic compression and intravascular events, including leukocyte(-platelet) adhesion, platelet-fibrin interactions, and activation of coagulation. All of these events occur in microvessels heterogeneously distributed within the ischemic core. The panorama of acute microvessel responses to focal cerebral ischemia provide opportunities to understand interrelationships between neurons and their microvascular supply and changes that underlie a number of central nervous system neurodegenerative disorders.