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Background: MicroRNAs serve as translational inhibitors and offer a unique therapeutic target for acute diseases such as stroke. Profiling of circulating miRNA after stroke identified mir363, whose expression was inversely correlated with infarct volume. Middle aged female rats show worse stroke outcomes than younger females and have much lower levels of mir363. Our recent studies showed that iv injections of miR363 mimic to middle aged females, significantly improved stroke outcome. The present study is designed to determine the mechanisms by which miR-363 acts as a therapeutic miR.Methods: Middle aged (12 mo) females were subject to MCAo. At 4h post-stroke, animals received a tail-vein injection of miR-363-3p FAM or scrambled control. Animals were terminated at 48h or 5d post-MCAo and perfused transcardially or processed for protein, respectively. To determine which neural cell types localized exogenous mir363-3p, combined immunofluorescence was performed for cell specific markers (neuronal (NeuN), astrocytic (GFAP), microglial (CD11b) and endothelial (PECAM)) and mir363-3p-FAM mimic on coronal brain sections (25 mm thickness). Protein lysates from the ischemic tissue was analyzed for caspase-3 expression by Western blot analysis.Results: FAM-labeled mir363-3p was widely detected in the forebrain. The majority of NeuN+ cells in the cortex and striatum were also labeled with FAM-363-3p, indicating a robust internalization of the mimic in neurons. FAM-mir363-3p was also localized to a few microglia (CD11b +), virtually no double-label was seen in astrocytes and endothelial cells. Mir363 decreased the expression and functional activity of caspase3 in the ischemic hemisphere.Conclusion: Collectively, the data suggests that exogenous miR-363-3p is shuttled to the brain and is preferentially internalized by neurons. Together with the caspase-3 regulation, our data suggests that mir363 may improve stroke outcomes by suppressing a cell death effector.