Understanding the role of astrocytes in stroke is assuming increasing prominence, not only as an important component on its own within the neurovascular unit, but also because astrocytes can influence neuronal outcome. Ischemia may induce astrogliosis and other phenotypic changes, but these remain poorly understood, in part due to limitations in reproducing these changes in vitro. Dibutyryl cyclic AMP-differentiated cultured astrocytes are more representative of the in vivo astroglial cell phenotype, and were much more susceptible than undifferentiated astrocytes to an ischemic-like stress, oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD). OGD altered the expression/distribution and activity of glial glutamate transporters, impaired cellular glutamate uptake and decreased intracellular levels of glutathione preferentially in differentiated astrocytes. Resistance to OGD was conferred by inhibiting caspase-3 with DEVD-CHO and oxidative stress by the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC). The resistance of undifferentiated astrocytes to OGD may result from a transient but selective morphological transformation into Alzheimer type II astrocytes, an intermediary stage prior to transforming into reactive astrocytes. Co-culture of neurons with OGD-exposed astrocytes resulted in neurotoxicity, but at surprisingly lower levels with dying differentiated astrocytes. The antioxidant NAC or the 5-LOX inhibitor AA861 added upon co-culture delayed (day 1) but did not prevent neurotoxicity (day 3). Astrocytes undergoing apoptosis as a result of ischemia may represent a transient neuroprotective mechanism via ischemia-induced release of glutathione, but oxidative stress was responsible for neuronal demise when ischemia compromised astrocyte supportive functions.