The role of minocycline in preventing white matter injury, in particular the injury to developing oligodendrocytes was examined in a neonatal rat model of hypoxia-ischemia. Hypoxia-ischemia was achieved through bilateral carotid artery occlusion followed by exposure to hypoxia (8% oxygen) for 15 min in postnatal day 4 Sprague-Dawley rats. A sham operation was performed in control rats. Minocycline (45 mg/kg) or normal phosphate-buffered saline was administered intraperitoneally 12 h before and immediately after bilateral carotid artery occlusion+hypoxia and then every 24 h for 3 days. Nissl staining revealed pyknotic cells in the white matter area of the rat brain 1 and 5 days after hypoxia-ischemia. Hypoxia-ischemia insult also resulted in apoptotic oligodendrocyte cell death, loss of O4+ and O1+ oligodendrocyte immunoreactivity, and hypomyelination as indicated by decreased myelin basic protein immunostaining and by loss of mature oligodendrocytes in the rat brain. Minocycline significantly attenuated hypoxia-ischemia-induced brain injury. The protective effect of minocycline was associated with suppression of hypoxia-ischemia-induced microglial activation as indicated by the decreased number of activated microglia, which were also interleukin-1beta and inducible nitric oxide synthase expressing cells. The protective effect of minocycline was also linked with reduction in hypoxia-ischemia-induced oxidative and nitrosative stress as indicated by 4-hydroxynonenal and nitrotyrosine positive oligodendrocytes, respectively. The reduction in hypoxia-ischemia-induced oxidative stress was also evidenced by the decreases in the content of 8-isoprostane in the minocycline-treated hypoxia-ischemia rat brain as compared with that in the vehicle-treated hypoxia-ischemia rat brain. The overall results suggest that reduction in microglial activation may protect developing oligodendrocytes in the neonatal brain from hypoxia-ischemia injury.