We previously reported that cyclophilin A protein is up-regulated in cortical neuronal cultures following several preconditioning treatments. In the present study, we have demonstrated that adenoviral-mediated over-expression of cyclophilin A in rat cortical neuronal cultures can protect neurons from oxidative stress (induced by cumene hydroperoxide) and in vitro ischemia (induced by oxygen glucose deprivation). We subsequently demonstrated that cultured neurons, but not astrocytes, express the recently identified putative cyclophilin A receptor, CD147 (also called neurothelin, basigin and EMMPRIN), and that administration of purified cyclophilin A protein to neuronal cultures induces a rapid but transient phosphorylation of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1/2. Furthermore, administration of purified cyclophilin A protein to neuronal cultures protects neurons from oxidative stress and in vitro ischemia. Interestingly, we detected up-regulation of cyclophilin A mRNA, but not protein in the hippocampus following a 3-min period of sublethal global cerebral ischemia in the rat. Despite our in vivo findings, our in vitro data show that cyclophilin A has both intracellular- and extracellular-mediated neuroprotective mechanisms. To this end, we propose cyclophilin A's extracellular-mediated neuroprotection occurs via CD147 receptor signalling, possibly by activation of ERK1/2 pro-survival pathways. Further characterization of cyclophilin A's neuroprotective mechanisms may aid the development of a neuroprotective therapy. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.