Progression of cerebral ischemia from 5 min to 3 h after occlusion of a common carotid artery was investigated in the subiculum-CA1 region of the hippocampus of the gerbil by transmission electron microscopic and immunoelectron microscopic technique. The earliest change was found after 5 min in the periphery of the apical dendrites in the stratum moleculare, where mitochondrial swelling and disintegration of microtubules were clearly seen inside swollen dendritic processes. After ischemia for 10 min, similar abnormalities were observed in the more proximal part of the apical dendrites, and the basal dendrites also became similarly affected. After ischemia for 30 min to 1 h, the pyramidal cell bodies showed mitochondrial swelling, distension of endoplasmic reticulum and disaggregation of polyribosomes. The immunoelectron microscopic procedure for tubulin revealed irregularity of reaction products associated with microtubules after ischemia for 5 min in the dendritic terminals in the stratum moleculare and in the stratum radiatum after ischemia for 10 min. Reaction products in the pyramidal cell bodies became sparse after ischemia for 30 min to 1 h. The present investigation revealed early onset of ischemic damage in the dendritic terminals and subsequent proximal extension, with disintegration of microtubules and mitochondrial swelling.