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Although intracellular zinc accumulation has been shown to contribute to neuronal death after cerebral ischemia, the mechanism by which zinc keeps on accumulating to cause severe brain damage remains unclear. Herein the dynamic cause-effect relationships between zinc accumulation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production during cerebral ischemia/reperfusion are investigated.Rats were treated with zinc chelator, ROS scavenger, mitochondria-targeted ROS inhibitor, or NADPH oxidase inhibitor during a 90-minute middle cerebral artery occlusion. Cytosolic labile zinc, ROS level, cerebral infarct volume, and neurological functions were assessed after ischemia/reperfusion.Zinc and ROS were colocalized in neurons, leading to neuronal apoptotic death. Chelating zinc reduced ROS production at 6 and 24 hours after reperfusion, whereas eliminating ROS reduced zinc accumulation only at 24 hours. Furthermore, suppression of mitochondrial ROS production reduced the total ROS level and brain damage at 6 hours after reperfusion but did not change zinc accumulation, indicating that ROS is produced mainly from mitochondria during early reperfusion and the initial zinc release is upstream of ROS generation after ischemia. Suppression of NADPH oxidase decreased ROS generation, zinc accumulation, and brain damage only at 24 hours after reperfusion, indicating that the majority of ROS is produced by NADPH oxidase at later reperfusion time.This study provides the direct evidence that there exists a positive feedback loop between zinc accumulation and NADPH oxidase–induced ROS production, which greatly amplifies the damaging effects of both. These findings reveal that different ROS-generating source contributes to ischemia-generated ROS at different time, underscoring the critical importance of spatial and temporal factors in the interaction between ROS and zinc accumulation, and the consequent brain injury, after cerebral ischemia/reperfusion.