AIM To study protective effect of nerve growth factor(NGF) on apoptosis induced by N methyl D aspartate (NMDA) and oxygen/glucose deprivation. METHODS Primary cerebral cortical cultures from rat fetus were used to observe effects of NGF on the inhibition of apoptosis. RESULTS NMDA 30 μmol·L -1 exposured to cortical cell cultures for 20 min or oxygen/glucose deprived cultures for 10 h elicited typical apoptosis biochemical and morphological changes including condensed chromation, nuclear fragmentation, and reduction in volume and DNA degradation by endonucleases into fragments in oligonucleosomes of 180￣200 bases pairs. In addition, the characteristic apoptotic DNA peak fo the cells (i.e. sub G 1 peak) was revealed by flow cytometry. Apoptotic cell ratio was 50 2% and 45 7%, respectivelly. In agarose gel electrophoresis, the DNA extracted from cultured cerebral cells treated with NMDA (300 μmol·L -1 ) or hypoxia/hypoglycemia showed a typical internuclesosmal DNA degradation, i.e. DNA ladder. Previously incubating with NGF (50,100 μg·L -1 ) inhibited NMDA or hypoxia/hypoglycemia induces apoptosis of cultures rat cerebral cells. CONCLUSIONS NMDA(300 μmol·L -1 ) or hypoxia/hypoglycemia induced apoptosis in cerebral cortical cultures and NGF reduced apoptosis.