The effect of ischemia on the properties of 5-hydroxytryptamine1A + B (5-HT1A+B) and 5-hydroxytryptamine1B (5-HT1B) binding sites, physical-state "fluidity" of the membrane, and its susceptibility to peroxidation in vitro was investigated in the cerebral cortex of gerbils. Ischemia was induced by bilateral carotid artery occlusion for 15 min alone or with release for 1 h. Ischemia both with and without reflow decreased the number of 5-HT1A + B and 5-HT1B binding sites, whereas ischemia and reflow altered the affinity for 5-HT1B binding sites. Resistance to the temperature-dependent increase in "fluidity" of the membrane was detected (by fluorescence anisotropy using 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene as a probe) after ischemia and reflow but not in ischemia alone. Susceptibility of the membranes to Fe2+- and ascorbic acid-stimulated lipid peroxidation in vitro was decreased following ischemia and recirculation only. These findings strongly suggest that the composition and the function of the membrane are markedly disturbed during recirculation after ischemia.