BACKGROUND: The effect of neurotrophic factors in enhancing stroke-induced neurogenesis in the adult subventricular zone (SVZ) is limited by their poor blood-brain barrier (BBB) permeability.Intranasal administration is a noninvasive and valid method for delivery of neuropeptides into the brain, to bypass the BBB. We investigated the effect of treatment with intranasal transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) on neurogenesis in the adult mouse SVZ following focal ischemia. The modified Neurological Severity Scores (NSS) test was used to evaluate neurological function, and infarct volumes were determined from hematoxylin-stained sections. Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) labeling was performed at 7 days after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Immunohistochemistry was used to detect bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and neuron- or glia-specific markers for identifying neurogenesis in the SVZ at 7, 14, 21, 28 days after MCAO. RESULTS: Intranasal treatment of TGF-beta1 shows significant improvement in neurological function and reduction of infarct volume compared with control animals. TGF-beta1 treated mice had significantly less TUNEL-positive cells in the ipsilateral striatum than that in control groups. The number of BrdU-incorporated cells in the SVZ and striatum was significantly increased in the TGF-beta1 treated group compared with control animals at each time point. In addition, numbers of BrdU- labeled cells coexpressed with the migrating neuroblast marker doublecortin (DCX) and the mature neuronal marker neuronal nuclei (NeuN) were significantly increased after intranasal delivery of TGF-beta1, while only a few BrdU labeled cells co-stained with glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). CONCLUSION: Intranasal administration of TGF-beta1 reduces infarct volume, improves functional recovery and enhances neurogenesis in mice after stroke. Intranasal TGF-beta1 may have therapeutic potential for cerebrovascular disorders.