We investigated the neuronal distribution of microtubule-associated protein 2 in gerbil brain and monitored the progression of ischemic damage immunohistochemically by using this protein as a dendritic marker. The reaction for microtubule-associated protein 2 in normal gerbil brain clearly visualized neuronal soma and dendrites but other structures such as axonal bundles, glia and endothelial cells exhibited little immunoreactivity. In a reproducible gerbil model of unilateral cerebral ischemia, we could detect the ischemic lesions as early as 3 min after right common carotid occlusion at the subiculum-CA1 region of the ipsilateral hippocampus as faint loss of the reaction in the dendrites. After ischemia for 30 min, the ischemic lesions were clearly detected as loss of the reaction in the nerve cell bodies, dendrites and the neuropil in the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, thalamus and the caudoputamen. Although the mechanism for prompt disappearance of the immunohistochemical reaction for microtubule-associated protein 2 is not clear, the present investigation suggests that dendrites in the vulnerable regions may be quite susceptible to ischemic stress and that the immunohistochemical procedure for microtubule-associated protein 2 may be very useful for demonstration of dendritic damage in various pathophysiological states of the central nervous system.