Free radicals are thought to be the most important cause of the reperfusion injury subsequent to ischemia. The antioxidant status of the tissue affected by ischemia-reperfusion is of great importance for the primary endogenous defense against the free radical induced injury. This investigation was performed to evaluate the antioxidant enzyme capacity of the brain tis sue in the ischemia-reperfusion period using an experimental global moderate (penumbral) ischemia model on rat brains. Experiments were performed on 45 male Sprague Dawley rats. Ischemia was induced by bilateral vertebral arteries cauterization and temporary bilateral carotid arteries occlusion and sustained for 10 minutes. At the end of ischemia (0 min reperfusion) and various reperfusion periods (20 min, 60 min, 240 min), rats were decapitated and brains were frozen in liquid nitrogen. Changes in the intracellular antioxidant enzyme (superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase and catalase) activities were assessed in the rat brain tissues, by spectrophotometric methods. In all moderate ischemia-reperfusion groups, superoxide dismutase activities were found to have decreased significantly compared to the sham operated controls (P<0.05). During ischemia superoxide dismutase ac activity was lowered to 31% of that of the control group. The decreases were more significant in reperfusion groups, particularly in 60 min reperfusion (40%). Relatively smaller but still significant diminution was observed in glutathione peroxidase activities (P<0.05). The ratio of diminution was striking in 20 min and 60 min reperfusion groups with 26% of the sham operated:rats. Conversely, moderate ischemia-reperfusion caused significant increase in catalase activities (P<0.05). The increment was 63% of the preischemic level with 10 min of moderate ischemia. In conclusion, activities of the major antioxidant enzymes were changed significantly in moderate brain ischemia-reperfusion. These results suggest that the disturbance in oxidant-antioxidant balance might play a part in rendering the tissue more vulnerable to free radical induced injuries.