Recent studies suggest that mild hypothermia significantly alleviate damage following cerebral ischemia though the precise mechanism is poorly defined. In the present study, middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo) was induced in Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats for 1 h followed by varying periods of reperfusion. Cerebral infarcts identified by hematoxylin & eosin (H&E) staining revealed extensive lesion in normothermic (NT) 37 degrees C and small lesion in hypothermic (HT) 33 degrees C group of rats. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed Bcl-2 was induced in many neurons of HT group, while Bax and cytochrome c was induced in few neurons. In situ detection of DNA fragmentation using 3'-OH end labeling method (terminal dUTP nick-end labelling (TUNEL)) indicated, higher number of TUNEL-positive cells in NT group, but significantly decreased in HT group. The expression pattern revealed many neurons at the penumbra region could survive in HT group whereas, many neurons are committed to die in NT group. Our results suggest that hypothermia is selectively interfering at more than one place and providing protection.