Post-ischemic oxidative stress and vasomotor dysfunction in cerebral arteries may increase the likelihood of cognitive impairment and secondary stroke. However, the underlying mechanisms of post-stroke vascular abnormalities, as distinct from those causing primary brain injury, are poorly understood. We tested whether augmented superoxide-dependent dysfunction occurs in the mouse cerebral circulation following ischemia-reperfusion, and evaluated the role of Nox2 oxidase. METHODS: Cerebral ischemia was induced in male C57Bl6/J wild-type (WT) and Nox2-deficient (Nox2(-/-)) mice by middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO; 0.5 h), followed by reperfusion (23.5 h). Superoxide production by MCA was measured by L-012-enhanced chemiluminescence. Nitric oxide (NO) function was assessed in cannulated and pressurized MCA via the vasoconstrictor response to N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME; 100 micromol/L). Expression of Nox2, the nitration marker 3-nitrotyrosine, and leukocyte marker CD45 was assessed in cerebral arteries by Western blotting. RESULTS: Following ischemia-reperfusion, superoxide production was markedly increased in the MCA of WT, but not Nox2(-/-) mice. In WT mice, L-NAME-induced constriction was reduced by approximately 50 in ischemic MCA, whereas ischemia-reperfusion had no effect on responses to L-NAME in vessels from Nox2(-/-) mice. In ischemic MCA from WT mice, expression of Nox2 and 3-nitrotyrosine were approximately 1.4-fold higher than in the contralateral MCA, or in ischemic or contralateral vessels from Nox2(-/-) mice. Vascular CD45 levels were unchanged by ischemia-reperfusion. CONCLUSIONS: Excessive superoxide production, impaired NO function and nitrosative stress occur in mouse cerebral arteries after ischemia-reperfusion. These abnormalities appear to be exclusively due to increased activity of vascular Nox2 oxidase.