The mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) plays an important role in damage-induced cell death, and agents inhibiting the MPT may have a therapeutic potential for treating human conditions such as ischemia / reperfusion injury, trauma, and neurodegenerative diseases. The mitochondrial matrix protein, cyclophilin D (CYP D), a member of a family of highly homologous peptidylprolyl cis-trans isomerases (PPIases), plays a decisive role in MPT, being an integral constituent of the MPT pore. Other putative MPT pore proteins include the adenine nucleotide translocator (ANT) and the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC). In an alternative model, the MPT pore is formed by clusters of misfolded membrane proteins outlining aqueous channels that are regulated by CYP D and other chaperone-like proteins. Like cyclophilin A (CYP A) and other cyclophilin family members, CYP D is targeted by the immunosuppressant cyclosporin A (CsA). CsA is cytoprotective in many cellular and animal models, but protection may result from either inhibition of the MPT through an interaction with CYP D or inhibition of calcineurin-mediated dephosphorylation of BAD through an interaction with CYP A. The relevance of MPT inhibition by CsA for its cytoprotective effects is well documented in many cellular models. Mechanisms of action in vivo are more difficult to define, and accordingly the evidence is as yet less compelling in in vivo animal models of ischemia / reperfusion injury, trauma and neurodegenerative diseases. Notwithstanding, CYP D is a drug target of high interest. Structural considerations suggest feasibility of designing CYP D ligands without immunosuppressant properties. This is highly desirable, since they have the potential of being useful therapeutic agents in a variety of disease states. It might be a tougher challenge to obtain compounds specific for CYP D vs. other cyclophilins, and / or of small molecular weight, allowing brain penetration to make them suitable for treating neurodegenerative diseases.