The effect of MK-801 on ischemic neuronal damage was studied in a rat model of permanent focal cerebral ischemia in terms of ipsilateral and contralateral cortical and cerebellar tissue lipid peroxides. Forty-five male Swiss Albino rats were assigned into one of four groups: sham operated as controls, subjected to right middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) or injection of MK-801 (0.5 mg/kg ip) either 30 min before or just after right MCAO. Changes in lipid peroxides were expressed as nmol malondialdehyde (MDA) and conjugated diene (CD)/mg protein. MDA values after 60 min of ischemia relative to contralateral cortex and CD levels in 0, 10 and 60 min after ischemia were found to be higher in ipsilateral cortex than those in contralateral cortex. On the other hand, contralateral cerebellar MDA levels in 0 and 60 min of ischemia and CD levels in 0, 10 and 60 min after ischemia were found to be higher than those in ipsilateral cerebellum. Pharmacological inhibition of glutamate receptor by MK-801 before or just after permanent MCAO decreased significantly the MDA and CD levels in both cortex and cerebellum. Although no significant differences found in MDA values between rats pre- and posttreated with MK-801, CD levels in posttreated group seemed significantly lower than those in pretreated group. On the whole, these results suggest that MDA and CD represent early biochemical marker of lipid peroxidation in ischemic tissues, reflecting the radical-mediated tissue damage. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.