DEXAMETHASONE (DEX) increases the expression of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) in normal rat hippocampal neurons, whereas transient forebrain ischemia reduces the NT-3 mRNA level. The effect of DEX on the expression of NT-3 mRNA in injured brain cells after ischemia has not been investigated, however. Using in situ hybridization and ribonuclease protection assay methods, we studied NT-3 mRNA expression in rats with and without DEX administration after transient forebrain ischemia. Without DEX treatment, NT-3 mRNA was down-regulated in the hippocampal neurons at 2, 4, 12 h and returned to basal levels 24 h following ischemia. With DEX treatment, however, NT-3 mRNA showed no change at 2, 4 and 12 h and increased 24 h after ischemia. The results indicate that DEX inhibits ischemia-induced NT-3 mRNA down-regulation during the first 12 h and up-regulates NT-3 mRNA 24 h after ischemia. DEX administration might be effective in influencing some of the pathophysiological effects of ischemia in the hippocampus.