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Endogenous levels of angiotensin II (Ang II) are increased in the cortex and hypothalamus following stroke, and Ang II type 1 receptor blockers (ARBs) have been shown to attenuate the deleterious effects in animal stroke models using middle cerebral artery (MCA) intraluminal occlusion procedures. However, the endothelin-1 (ET-1)-induced middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model of cerebral ischaemia is thought to more closely mimic the temporal events of an embolic stroke. This method provides rapid occlusion of the MCA and a gradual reperfusion that lasts for 16–22 h. The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether systemic administration of an ARB prior to ET-1-induced MCAO would provide cerebroprotection during this model of ischaemic stroke. Injection of 3 μl of 80 μm ET-1 adjacent to the MCA resulted in complete occlusion of the vessel that resolved over a period of 30–40 min. Following ET-1-induced MCAO, rats had significant neurological impairment, as well as an infarct that consisted of 30% of the ipsilateral grey matter. Systemic pretreatment with 0.2 mg kg−1 day−1 candesartan for 7 days attenuated both the infarct size and the neurological deficits caused by ET-1-induced MCAO without altering blood pressure. This study confirms the cerebroprotective properties of ARBs during ischaemic stroke and validates the ET-1-induced MCAO model for examination of the role of the brain renin–angiotensin system in ischaemic stroke.