Glutamate is a major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system and initiates the events leading to ischemic brain damage. Glutamate receptor antagonists are being used to reduce neuronal damage observed after hypoxia and ischemia. The glutamate receptor antagonist, (+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo-(a,d)-cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate (MK-801) crosses the blood-brain barrier readily and produces a non-competitive use-dependent blockade of the N-methyl-D-aspartate subtype of glutamate receptor. The aim of this study was to investigate effects of MK-801 administered before and just after the onset of ischemia in rats on nitrite and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) levels. Focal cerebral ischemia in rats was produced by permanent occlusion of right middle cerebral artery (MCAO). Nitrite and cGMP levels were measured in both cortex and cerebellum at 0, 10, and 60 min following MCAO. The same parameters were measured in rats treated with MK-801 (0.5 mg/kg, i.p.) 30 min before or just after MCAO. Ipsilateral cortical nitrite levels were increased relative to contralateral cortex after MCAO. No significant changes were observed in cerebellum. The cGMP concentrations in both sides of the cortex and cerebellum were increased at 10 and 60 min compared with 0 min values. cGMP level in the ipsilateral cortex was higher than contralateral cortex, whereas the opposite was found for the cerebellum. MK-801 treatment before or just after MCAO decreased significantly nitrite and cGMP production. Our data indicate that MK-801 treatment before or just after focal ischemia prevents the increase in NO and cGMP production. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.