Depressed energy metabolism and oxidative stress are common features in many pathological situations in the brain, including stroke. In order to investigate astrocytic responses to such stress, we induced metabolic depression in cultured rat astrocytes. Iodoacetate (IA), an inhibitor of the glycolytic enzyme glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) was used and resulted in a rapid inhibition of GAPDH activity. After 1h of GAPDH inhibition the ATP levels started to decrease and were completely abolished at 4h. In parallel, the activity of reactive oxygen species (ROS) was significantly increased, followed by extensive cell death involving flipping of phosphatidylserine and translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor, but not caspase-3 activation. When IA was combined with azide, a respiratory chain complex IV inhibitor, the ATP levels decreased immediately. Interestingly, with azide present, the ROS activity remained low and the astrocytes remained viable even at very low ATP levels. Addition of exogenous ROS-scavengers prevented the IA-induced ROS activity, the ATP levels were maintained and cell death was prevented. Similar protection could be obtained when astrocytes, prior to addition of IA, were incubated with substances known to activate the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-regulated endogenous antioxidant system. When IA was washed out, after a relatively moderate ATP depression, massive cell death occurred. This was efficiently prevented by addition of azide or ROS scavengers during the IA treatment or by pre-activation of the Nrf2 system. Our results demonstrate that astrocytes in culture can endure and recover from glycolytic inhibition if the ROS activity remained at a low level and suggest that oxidative stress can be an important component for astrocytic cell death following metabolic stress.