The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is emerging as a contributory component of cell death after ischemia. Since caspase-12 has been localized to the ER and is a novel signal for apoptosis, we examined the message levels and protein expression of caspase-12 after cerebral ischemia in vivo. Animals underwent permanent middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) and were sacrificed 24 h after ischemia. Protein analysis revealed a significant increase in caspase-12 and a corresponding up-regulation of caspase-12 mRNA in the ischemia group compared with that in the sham group. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed diffuse positive immunostaining of caspase-12 throughout the striatum and cerebral cortex in animals that underwent ischemia, with more intense caspase-12 immunostaining in the striatum than in the cortex after ischemia. These results demonstrate that cerebral ischemia initiates an ER-based stress response that results in the transcriptional up-regulation and corresponding increased expression of caspase-12 protein, and may provide a new area for therapeutic intervention to ameliorate outcomes following stroke.