Abstract Ischemic preconditioning (IP) conferred by brief ischemia–reperfusion induces resistance to cell injury due to the following lethal ischemia. This study aimed to elucidate whether 78-kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78), a main ER molecular chaperone, contributes to IP-mediated protection against ischemic myocardial injury. In a rat coronary artery occlusion model, the GRP78 protein level increased to 210% of the sham level by early IP with three cycles of 4-min ischemia and 4-min reperfusion. The IP reduced infarct size in subsequent lethal ischemia. In primary cardiomyocytes, the simulated IP procedure, incubation in oxygen–glucose deprivation (OGD) medium, also increased the GRP78 expression and suppressed the cell death caused by lethal ischemia. Transfection of grp78 antisense oligonucleotide attenuated the IP-mediated resistance to ischemia. This study showed for the first time that early IP up-regulates myocardial GRP78. It was suggested that GRP78 induced by early IP contributes to protect cardiomyocytes against ischemic injury.