Background. Altered gene expression occurs in the brain after global ischemia. We have developed a model to examine the effects of cardiopulmonary bypass and hypothermic circulatory arrest (HCA) on the induction of the immediate-early gene c-fos in the brains of neonatal lambs. We then tested the effects of the noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist, aptiganel hydrochloride (Cerestat), on c-fos expression and neuronal injury. Methods. Neonatal lambs (weight, 4 to 6 kg) anesthetized with isoflurane were supported by cardiopulmonary bypass, subjected to 90 or 120 minutes of HCA at 15°C, and rewarmed on bypass to 35°C. One hour after cardiopulmonary bypass was terminated, the brains were perfusion fixed and removed for in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analysis. Some animals survived 3 days before their brains were removed to examine for neuronal necrosis. One group of lambs (n = 20) received aptiganel (2.5 mg/kg). A second group (n = 25) received saline vehicle only. Results. Increasing duration of HCA induced a corresponding increase in c-fos messenger RNA expression throughout the hippocampal formation and cortex. However, Fos protein synthesis peaked after 90 minutes of HCA and decreased significantly (p < 0.01) after 120 minutes of HCA. Aptiganel administration caused a significant decrease in (p < 0.001) c- fos messenger RNA expression and Fos protein synthesis after 90 minutes of HCA and preserved Fos protein synthesis after 120 minutes of HCA. Neuronal necrosis was observed in the brains of vehicle-treated lambs after 120 minutes of HCA but was significantly decreased (p < 0.05) in the lambs given aptiganel. Conclusions. These experiments indicate that the transcriptional processes of immediate-early genes remain intact, whereas translational processes are impaired after prolonged HCA. The inability to synthesize Fos proteins after 120 minutes of HCA was associated with neuronal degeneration. Aptiganel preserved translational processes and caused a significant improvement in the neurologic outcome.