Heme oxygenase-2 (HO-2) has been suggested to be a cytoprotective enzyme in a variety of in vivo experimental models. HO-2, the constitutive isozyme, is enriched in neurons and, under normal conditions, accounts for nearly all of brain HO activity. HO-2 deletion (HO-2- / -) leads to increased neurotoxicity in cultured brain cells and increased damage following transient cerebral ischemia in mice. Moreover, pharmacologic inhibition of HO activity significantly augments focal ischemic damage in wildtype (WT) mice, but does not further exacerbate it in HO-2- / - mice. The HO system shares some similarities with nitric oxide synthase (NOS), notably their syntheses of carbon monoxide (CO) and nitric oxide (NO), respectively, which are diffusible gases with numerous biological actions, including neurotransmission and vasodilation. While deletion of HO-2 results in greater stroke damage, the pharmacologic inhibition of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), or its gene deletion, confers neuroprotection in animal models of transient cerebral ischemia. To investigate the interactions, the outcome of focal cerebral ischemia-reperfusion in double knockout (HO-2- / - X nNOS- / -) mice lacking both genes was compared to control WT mice. Wildtype and double knockout male mice underwent intraluminal middle cerebral occlusion for 2 hours, followed by reperfusion for 22 hours. Outcomes in neurologic deficits and infarct size were determined. No difference was observed between WT and double knockout mice in the volume of infarction, neurologic signs, decrease in relative cerebral blood flow during ischemia, or core body temperature. The results suggest that the deleterious action of nNOS would counteract the role of HO-2 in neuroprotection.