The heat shock protein 70 (HSP-70) mRNA level was evaluated in Long Evans rat retinas after ischemia and after reperfusion following ischemia. Retinal ischemia was induced by ligation of the optic nerve and vessels. Rats were sacrificed after 90 min of ischemia or 120 min of reperfusion following ischemia. Retinas were dissected. Total mRNA was extracted and inducible HSP-70 (iHSP-70) gene expression was analyzed by quantification of transcripts using an RT-PCR assay. Results were expressed in arbitrary units as a ratio of the optical density of iHSP-70/beta-actin electrophoretic bands. iHSP-70 gene expression was 0.220 +/- 0.027 (n = 5), 0.502 +/- 0.045 (n = 5) and 0.468 +/- 0.032 (n = 5) for the sham-operated, ischemia only and ischemia and reperfusion groups, respectively. There was a statistically significant difference between the control and ischemia groups, and between the control and ischemia and reperfusion groups (p < 0.001), suggesting a rapid HSP-70 mRNA expression of the retina due to an ischemic injury.