Preconditioning the brain with sublethal cerebral ischemia induces tolerance to subsequent lethal periods of ischemia (ischemic tolerance). The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of low-molecular weight stress proteins, 27-kDa heat shock protein (HSP27) and alpha B crystallin, in ischemic tolerance. We measured the content of these proteins with enzyme immunoassay in the rat hippocampus and cerebral cortex following 6 min of ischemia with and without preconditioning with 3 min of ischemia and 3 days of reperfusion. We also visualized the localization of HSP27 immunohistochemically in comparison with that of HSP70. A 3-min period of ischemia caused a 2.4-fold increase in HSP27 content in the hippocampus after 3 days. Immunohistochemical localization of HSP27 was found in glial cells in all subregions of the hippocampus, whereas HSP70 immunostaining was seen only in CA1 pyramidal neurons. HSP27 content in the hippocampus decreased 2 h after 6 min of ischemia. HSP27 content progressively increased in the unpreconditioned hippocampus after 1 and 3 days, but returned to preischemic levels in the preconditioned hippocampus. HSP27 and HSP70 immunostaining was seen in CA1 pyramidal neurons after 1 day both with and without preconditioning. After 3 and 7 days, an intense HSP27 staining was observed in reactive glial cells in the CA1 without preconditioning, whereas the staining decreased in the preconditioned hippocampus. HSP70 staining was seen only in neurons at these time points. We observed no significant changes in HSP27 content in the cerebral cortex although neurons in the third and fifth layers were immunostained after 1 and 3 days. We observed no alterations in alpha B crystallin content after ischemia both in the hippocampus and the cortex. The present study demonstrated that cerebral ischemia induces HSP27 expression but not alpha B crystallin. Both HSP27 and HSP70 induction had a good temporal correlation with the induction of ischemic tolerance. However, different sites of action were suggested because the localization and cell types of HSP27 induction were quite different from those of HSP70 induction. The result suggests that it is unlikely that HSP27 is directly involved in the protection afforded by ischemic preconditioning.