1. Studies have documented the proliferative effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on neural progenitor cells in the normal or injured brain. The effect of EGF on post-stroke cerebral expression of nestin, a marker of neural progenitor cells, has not been examined in hypertensive rats. 2. In the present study, adult renovascular hypertensive Sprague-Dawley rats underwent either real or sham middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Intracerebroventricular injections of either 1 microg EGF or vehicle (0.01 mol/L phosphate-buffered saline containing 0.1 mg/mL rat serum albumin) were made 24 and 48 h after MCAO. Then, 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks after MCAO, the postural reflex was evaluated in a blinded fashion before rat brains were processed to determine the infarct volume plus immunoreactivity for nestin and/or glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). Another group of rats was used to quantify nestin expression using western blot analysis. 3. Middle cerebral artery occlusion resulted in a focal infarct that was largest at 1 week and diminished gradually over the time. The impaired postural reflex followed a similar time-course. In addition, MCAO induced a marked increase in nestin expression in both hemispheres, with a higher expression in the right hemisphere; this change was maximal at 1 week and largely subsided at 3 or 4 weeks. Within the right hemisphere, nestin expression was most pronounced in the subventricular and peri-infarct zones. Most nestin-immunoreactive cells were also positive for GFAP. 4. Thus, EGF treatment significantly increases nestin expression, reduces infarct volume and ameliorates postural reflex impairment in adult hypertensive rats.