Neonatal hypoxia-ischemia (HI) induces immediate early gene (IEG) c-fos expression as well as neuron death. The precise role of IEGs in neonatal HI is unclear. We investigated the temporal and spatial patterns of c-Fos expression in postnatal day 7 mice after unilateral carotid ligation and exposure to 8% oxygen. mRNA levels of c-fos quantitated by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) increased nearly 40-fold (log 1.2 ± 0.4) in the ipsilateral hippocampus 3 hr following neonatal HI, then returned to basal levels within 12 hr, although no change was observed in c-jun mRNA. Frozen coronal brain sections were stained with cresyl violet or used for immunohistochemical detection of c-Fos, cleaved caspase-3, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and the mature neuron marker NeuN. c-Fos immunoreactivity increased throughout the injured hippocampus 3 hr after HI but became restricted to the CA2-3 subregion and the dentate gyrus (DG) at 6-12 hr and declined by 24 hr. In contrast, cleaved (activated) caspase-3 immunoreactivity was most abundant in the ipsilateral CA1 region at 3-6 hr after neonatal HI, then became more prominent in CA2-3 and DG. Double-labeling experiments showed c-Fos and cleaved caspase-3 immunoreactivity localized in spatially distinct neuron subpopulations. Prominent c-Fos immunoreactivity was observed in surviving CA2-3 and external granular DG neurons, and robust cleaved caspase-3 immunoreactivity was observed in pyknotic CA1, CA2-3, and subgranular DG neurons. The differential expression of c-Fos in HI-resistant hippocampal subpopulations vs. cleaved caspase-3 in dying neurons suggests a neuroprotective role for c-Fos expression in neonatal HI. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.