The identification of genes differentially regulated by ischemia will lead to an improved understanding of cell death pathways such as those involved in the neuronal loss observed following a stroke. Furthermore, the characterization of such pathways could facilitate the identification of novel targets for stroke therapy. We have used a novel approach to amplify differential gene expression patterns in a primary neuronal model of stroke by employing a lentiviral vector system to specifically bias the transcriptional activation of hypoxically regulated genes. Overexpression of the hypoxia-induced transcription factor subunits HIF-1 alpha and HIF-2 alpha elevated hypoxia-mediated transcription of many known HIF-regulated genes well above control levels. Furthermore, many potentially novel HIF-regulated genes were discovered that were not previously identified as hypoxically regulated. Most of the novel genes identified were activated by a combination of HIF-2 alpha overexpression and hypoxic insult. These included several genes with particular importance in cell survival pathways and of potential therapeutic value. Hypoxic induction of HIF-2 alpha may therefore be a critical factor in mediating protective responses against ischemic injury. Further investigation of the genes identified in this study may provide increased understanding of the neuronal response to hypoxia and may uncover novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of cerebral ischemia.