Severe forebrain ischemia was produced in rats by occluding both carotid and vertebral arteries. Following 30 min ischemia brains were recirculated for 8 or 24 h. Twelve animals subjected to 8 or 24 h recirculation (n = 6, each group) were given alpha-difluoromethylornithine (DFMO; injected intraperitoneally) immediately before recirculation. At the end of the experiments brains were frozen and samples were taken from the cerebellum, cortex, caudatoputamen and hippocampus. Samples from the left hemisphere were used for measuring ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity, and those from the right hemisphere for determining putrescine profiles. During recirculation ODC activity increased markedly in all brain structures, the most pronounced change being in the caudatoputamen after 8 h recirculation. Putrescine increased drastically after 8 h and even more after 24 h recirculation. DFMO-treatment significantly reduced ODC activity after 8 h recirculation and following 24 h recirculation. Putrescine, however, was significantly reduced following 24 h but not after 8 h recirculation. The discrepancy between reduction in ODC activity and putrescine levels in DFMO-treated animals was most prominent in the hippocampus after 8 h recirculation: here DFMO reduced ODC activity to control values without affecting putrescine levels. The results suggest that the observed overshoot in putrescine formation following ischemia is only partly caused by activation of ODC.