Triptolide, an active compound extracted from the Chinese herb thunder god vine ( Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F.), has potent antitumor activity. Recently, triptolide was found to have protective effects against acute cerebral ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury through inhibition of cell apoptosis. However, the regulatory mechanism of the effect remains unclear. We hypothesize that the regulatory mechanisms of triptolide are mediated by nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) and p53-upregulated-modulator-of-apoptosis signal inhibition. To verify this hypothesis, we occluded the middle cerebral artery in male rats to establish focal cerebral I/R model. The rats received triptolide or vehicle at the onset of reperfusion following middle cerebral artery occlusion. At 24 hours after reperfusion, neurological deficits, infarct volume, and cell apoptosis were evaluated. The expression levels of NF-κBp65, PUMA, and caspase-3 were determined by Western blot. Real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to determine the levels of NF-κBp65 mRNA, PUMA mRNA, and caspase-3 mRNA. NF-κB activity was determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay. Apoptotic cells were detected using terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining. In I/R group, neurological deficit scores, cerebral infarct volume, expression of NF-κBp65, PUMA, caspase-3, NF-κB activity, and TUNEL-positive cells were found to be increased at 24 hours after I/R injury. The I/R/triptolide rats showed significantly better neurological deficit scores, decreased neural apoptosis, and reduced cerebral infarct volume. In addition, the expression of NF-κBp65, PUMA, caspase-3, and NF-κB activity was suppressed in the I/R/triptolide rats. These results indicate that the neuroprotective effects of triptolide during acute cerebral I/R injury are possibly related to the inhibition of apoptosis through suppression of NF-κB/PUMA signaling pathway.