Cerebral ischaemia induces transcriptional changes in a number of pathophysiologically important genes. Here we have systematically studied gene expression changes after 90 min and 24 h of permanent focal ischaemia in the mouse by an advanced fragment display technique (restriction-mediated differential display). We identified 56 transcriptionally altered genes, many of which provide novel hints to ischaemic pathophysiology. Particularly interesting were two pro-apoptotic genes (Grim19 and Tdag51), whose role in cerebral ischaemia and neuronal cell death has not been recognized so far. Among the unknown sequences, we identified a gene that was rapidly and transiently up-regulated. The encoded protein displayed high homology to the MARK family of serine-threonine protein kinases and has recently been described as MARKL1/MARK4. Here we demonstrate that this protein is a functional protein kinase with the ability to specifically phosphorylate a cognate peptide substrate for the AMP-kinase family. Upon overexpression in heterologous cells, the functional wild-type protein, but not its kinase-dead mutant, led to decreased cell viability. We conclude that the up-regulation of this kinase during focal ischaemia may represent an interesting new target for pharmacological intervention.