The effects of a platelet activating factor antagonist (BN 52021) on cerebral ischemia-reperfusion was studied in the gerbil. Following ten minutes of bilateral carotid artery ligation, gerbils were reperfused and injected intraperitoneally with either BN 52021 or vehicle-dimethylsulfoxide. Cerebral blood flow and systemic arterial pressure were monitored until 90 minutes of reperfusion. Free fatty acids, diacylglycerols and polyphosphoinositides were then analyzed in forebrains and midbrains. BN 52021 inhibited the maturation of ischemic injury. Cerebral blood flow increased following 60 to 90 minutes of reperfusion. Free fatty acid levels were reduced likely by inhibition of phospholipase A. Phospholipase activity may likely be decreased since there was a tendency to increase phosphatidylinositol-4',5'-bisphosphate and diacylglycerols in BN 52021-treated animals.