Peptidylarginine deiminase type II (PAD 2) is the primary enzyme responsible for conversion of protein bound arginine to citrulline in the central nervous system. Evidence suggests that glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), the main intermediate filament in astrocytes, is deiminated, but not much is known regarding factors that control this enzymatic reaction. The present study demonstrated that PAD 2 activity (as determined by Western blot analysis of citrullinated GFAP isoforms) was increased in human cultured astrocytes by hypoxic conditions. PAD 2 mRNA increased markedly during the first 2 h of hypoxia, but using a single chain antibody against human PAD 2 produced from the ETH-2 phage library, it took approximately 8 h of hypoxia to see marked increases in PAD 2 protein. Thus, this is the first report to demonstrate a measurable response in the amounts of PAD 2 mRNA, protein and activity in human astrocytes by prolonged hypoxic exposure. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.