Astrocytes are multifunctional cells that interact with neurons and other astrocytes in signaling and metabolic functions, and their resistance to pathophysiological conditions can help restrict loss of tissue after an ischemic event provided adequate nutrients are supplied to support their requirements. Astrocytes have substantial oxidative capacity and mechanisms to upregulate glycolytic capability when respiration is impaired. An astrocytic enzyme that synthesizes a powerful activator of glycolysis is not present in neurons, endowing astrocytes with the ability to sustain ATP production under restrictive conditions. The monocarboxylic acid transporter (MCT) isoforms predominating in astrocytes are optimized to facilitate very large increases in lactate flux as lactate concentration increases within (1–3 mM) and above (>3 mM) the normal range. In sharp contrast, the major neuronal MCT serves as a barrier to increased transmembrane transport as lactate rises above 1 mM, restricting both entry and efflux. Lactate can serve as fuel during recovery from ischemia but direct evidence that lactate is oxidized by neurons (vs. astrocytes) to maintain synaptic function is lacking. Astrocytes have critical roles in regulation of ionic homeostasis and control of extracellular glutamate levels, and spreading depression associated with ischemia places high demands on energy supplies in astrocytes and contributes to metabolic exhaustion and demise. Disruption of Ca2+ homeostasis, generation of oxygen free radicals and nitric oxide, and mitochondrial depolarization contribute to astrocyte death during and after a metabolic insult. Novel pharmaceutical agents targeted to astrocytes and hyperoxic therapy that restores penumbral oxygen level during energy failure might improve postischemic outcome. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.