Oxidative stress is pathogenic in neurological diseases, including stroke. The identity of oxidative stress-inducible transcription factors and their role in propagating the death cascade are not well known. In an in vitro model of oxidative stress, the expression of the bZip transcription factor activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) was induced by glutathione depletion and localized to the promoter of a putative death gene in neurons. Germline deletion of ATF4 resulted in a profound reduction in oxidative stress - induced gene expression and resistance to oxidative death. In neurons, ATF4 modulates an early, upstream event in the death pathway, as resistance to oxidative death by ATF4 deletion was associated with decreased consumption of the antioxidant glutathione. Forced expression of ATF4 was sufficient to promote cell death and loss of glutathione. In ATF4-/- neurons, restoration of ATF4 protein expression reinstated sensitivity to oxidative death. In addition, ATF4 -/- mice experienced significantly smaller infarcts and improved behavioral recovery as compared with wild-type mice subjected to the same reductions in blood flow in a rodent model of ischemic stroke. Collectively, these findings establish ATF4 as a redox-regulated, prodeath transcriptional activator in the nervous system that propagates death responses to oxidative stress in vitro and to stroke in vivo. © 2008 Lange et al. The Rockefeller University Press.