BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Experimental studies indicate that estrogen typically, but not universally, has a neuroprotective effect in stroke. Ischemic stroke increases membrane-bound G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) distribution and expression in the brain of male but not female mice. We hypothesized that GPER activation may have a greater neuroprotective effect in males than in females after stroke. METHODS: Vehicle (dimethyl sulfoxide), a GPER agonist (G-1, 30 mug/kg), or a GPER antagonist (G-15, 300 mug/kg) were administered alone or in combination to young or aged male mice, or young intact or ovariectomized female mice, 1 hour before or 3 hours after cerebral ischemia-reperfusion. Some mice were treated with a combination of G-1 and the pan-caspase inhibitor, quinoline-Val-Asp(Ome)-CH2-O-phenoxy (Q-VD-OPh), 1 hour before stroke. We evaluated functional and histological end points of stroke outcome up to 72 hours after ischemia-reperfusion. In addition, apoptosis was examined using cleaved caspase-3 immunohistochemistry. RESULTS: Surprisingly, G-1 worsened functional outcomes and increased infarct volume in males poststroke, in association with an increased expression of cleaved caspase-3 in peri-infarct neurons. These effects were blocked by G-15 or Q-VD-OPh. Conversely, G-15 improved functional outcomes and reduced infarct volume after stroke in males, whether given before or after stroke. In contrast to findings in males, G-1 reduced neurological deficit, apoptosis, and infarct volume in ovariectomized females, but had no significant effect in intact females. CONCLUSIONS: Future therapies for acute stroke could exploit the modulation of GPER activity in a sex-specific manner.