Abstract Oxidative stress has been associated with the development of blood–brain barrier disruption and cellular injury after ischemia. The cytosolic antioxidant, copper/zinc superoxide dismutase, has been shown to protect against blood–brain barrier disruption and infarction after cerebral ischemia–reperfusion. However, it is not clear whether copper/zinc superoxide dismutase can protect against evolving ischemic lesions after thromboembolic cortical ischemia. In this study, the photothrombotic ischemia model, which is physiologically similar to thromboembolic stroke, was used to develop cortical ischemia. Blood–brain barrier disruption and oxidative cellular damage were investigated in transgenic mice that overexpress copper/zinc superoxide dismutase and in littermate wild-type mice after photothrombotic ischemia, which was induced by both injection of erythrosin B (30 mg/kg) and irradiation using a helium neon laser for 3 min. Free radical production, particularly superoxide, was increased in the lesioned cortex as early as 4 h after ischemia using hydroethidine in situ detection. The transgenic mice showed a prominent decrease in oxidative stress compared with the wild-type mice. Blood–brain barrier disruption, evidenced by quantitation of Evans Blue leakage, occurred 1 h after ischemia and gradually increased up to 24 h. Compared with the wild-type mice, the transgenic mice showed less blood–brain barrier disruption, a decrease in oxidative DNA damage using 8-hydroxyguanosine immunohistochemistry, a subsequent decrease in DNA fragmentation using the in situ nick-end labeling technique, and decreased infarct volume after ischemia. From these results we suggest that superoxide anion radical is an important factor in blood–brain barrier disruption and oxidative cellular injury, and that copper/zinc superoxide dismutase could protect against the evolving infarction after thromboembolic cortical ischemia.