In the central nervous system oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathology of several neurological disorders. The ability to withstand reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress are essential for survival and therefore all aerobic cells are endowed with chemical and enzymatic antioxidative defense systems. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the antioxidative response at the transcriptional level following exposure of primary astrocytes to a pro-oxidant, Paraquat (PQ). This was done by investigating the time-dependent expression of selected genes encoding the antioxidative enzymes Mn- and CuZn superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase as well as the transcription factor component AP-1. Paraquat induced the expression of Mn- and CuZn SOD, catalase and decreases the expression of c-jun (a part of AP-1). Furthermore, the gene expression profiles were investigated after exposure to PQ using a commercial cDNA membrane array containing 207 genes from key oxidative stress pathways. The gene expression pattern clearly indicated that 60 μM PQ for 48 h induces genes related to oxidative stress, detoxification, mitotic arrest, DNA repair, and apoptosis. The PQ (48 h)-induced expressions of genes identified in cDNA array were confirmed by Northern blot analysis, which revealed a statistical significant up-regulation of genes involved in oxidative stress, detoxification, and DNA repair/synthesis and includes heme oxygenase-1 (11-fold), NAD(P)H dehydrogenase (8-fold), glutathione S-transferase P (7-fold), glucose-regulated 78-kDa protein (7-fold), glucose-regulated 75-kDa protein (6-fold), and growth-arrest and DNA-damage-inducible protein 45 (4.5-fold) and minor changes for heat shock 10-kDa protein, NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase, heme oxygenase-2, proliferating cell nuclear antigen, and Bcl-2-associated death promoter. Thus, we could demonstrate a PQ-inducible effect of the mRNA of antioxidative enzymes, as well as the mRNAs of possible enzymes involved in the protection against oxidative stress.