Considerable interest has focused on the possibility of using viral vectors to deliver genes to the central nervous system for the purpose of decreasing necrotic neuronal injury. To that end, we have previously shown that a herpes simplex virus (HSV) vector expressing Bcl-2 could protect neurons from ischemia. In that study, vector was delivered before the ischemia. However, for such gene therapy to be of clinical use, vectors must be protective even if delivered after the onset of the insult. In the present study, we show that an HSV vector expressing Bcl-2 protects striatal neurons when delivered after focal ischemia. Rats were exposed to middle cerebral artery occlusion for 1 hour, followed by reperfusion, and damage was assessed 48 hours later. Delivery of the Bcl-2 vector 30 minutes after reperfusion (i.e., 1.5 hours after ischemia onset) prevented any significant loss of virally-targeted neurons in the striatum. In contrast, in rats microinfused with a vector only expressing a reporter gene, a highly significant loss of neurons occurred. By 4 hours into the reperfusion period (5 hours after ischemia onset), delivery of the Bcl-2 vector was no longer protective. These data show the efficacy of postinsult gene therapy strategies for the brain, underline the finite length of this temporal therapeutic window, and support the growing evidence attesting to the neuroprotective potential of Bcl-2.