BACKGROUND: The brain endothelium is a key component of the blood brain barrier which is compromised following ischemia, allowing infiltration of damaging immune cells and other inflammatory molecules into the brain. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) is known to reduce infarct size in a mouse model of experimental stroke. FINDINGS: Flow cytometry analysis showed that the protective effect of IVIg in ischemia and reperfusion injury in vivo is associated with reduced leukocyte infiltration, suggesting an involvement of the endothelium. In an in vitro model of ischemia, permeability analysis of the mouse brain endothelial cell line bEnd.3 revealed that IVIg prevented the loss of permeability caused by oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD). In addition, western blot analysis of these brain endothelial cells showed that IVIg prevented the down-regulation of tight junction proteins claudin 5 and occludin and the decline in anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL caused by OGD. CONCLUSION: IVIg protects endothelial cells from ischemic insult. These studies support the use of IVIg as a pharmacological intervention for stroke therapy.