Hyperbaric oxygen preconditioning (HBO-PC) has been shown to be effective in preventing hypoxic injuries in many animal models. The aim of the present study was to examine the hypoxic tolerance induced by HBO-PC and to explore the role of hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha) in a global hypoxia model. Male mice received HBO-PC before hypoxia exposure and swimming. HBO-PC significantly prolonged the survival time and the tolerance time of swimming under normobaric hypoxia. HBO-PC increased the protein content of HIF-1alpha and erythropoietin (EPO) in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus and prevented the changes of blood brain barrier (BBB) permeability and brain edema caused by hypoxia exposure. The results suggested that HBO-PC induced hypoxic tolerance in mice via up-regulation of HIF-1alpha and its downstream genes.