Understanding the molecular mechanism of cerebral hypoxic preconditioning (HPC)-induced endogenous neuroprotection may provide potential therapeutic targets for ischemic stroke. By using bioinformatics analysis, we found that miR-181b, one of 19 differentially expressed miRNAs, may target aconitate hydratase (ACO2), heat shock protein A5 (HSPA5), and ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase isozyme L1 (UCHL1) among 26 changed protein kinase C isoform-specific interacting proteins in HPC mouse brain. In this study, the role of miR-181b in oxygen–glucose deprivation (OGD)-induced N2A cell ischemic injury in vitro and mouse middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO)-induced cerebral ischemic injury in vivo, and its regulation of ACO2, HSPA5, and UCHL1 were further determined. We found that miR-181b expression levels significantly decreased in mouse brain following MCAO and in OGD-treated N2A cells. Up- and downregulation of miR-181b by transfection of pre- or anti-miR-181b could negatively regulate HSPA5 and UCHL1 (but not ACO2) protein levels as well as N2A cell death and programmed cell death in OGD-treated N2A cells. By using a T7 promoter-driven control dual luciferase assay, we confirmed that miR-181b could bind to the 3′-untranslated rergions of HSPA5 and UCHL1 mRNAs and repress their translations. miR-181b antagomir reduced caspase-3 cleavage and neural cell loss in cerebral ischemic cortex and improved neurological deficit of mice after MCAO. In addition, HSPA5 and UCHL1 short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) blocked anti-miR-181b-mediated neuroprotection against OGD-induced N2A cell injury in vitro. These results suggest that the downregulated miR-181b induces neuroprotection against ischemic injury through negatively regulating HSPA5 and UCHL1 protein levels, providing a potential therapeutic target for ischemic stroke. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.