BACKGROUND: Reactive gliosis and scar formation after brain injury can inhibit the recovery process. As many glial cells utilize gap junctions for intercellular signaling, this study investigated whether two commonly used gap junction blockers, octanol and carbenoxolone, could attenuate reactive gliosis following a minor traumatic brain injury. METHODS: Octanol (710 mg/kg) or carbenoxolone (90 mg/kg) was administered 30 minutes before or after a needle track injury in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. To mark dividing cells, animals were injected with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU; 150 mg/kg) intraperitoneally two times per day, 8 hours apart and killed 2 days later. Immunohistochemistry for BrdU and markers for reactive glial cells [glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), ED1, and NG2] were investigated using immunohistochemistry and western blot techniques. RESULTS: Two days after injury, increased cellular proliferation, activated astrocytes and microglia, and upregulation of NG2 expression were observed surrounding the injury site. Octanol and carbenoxolone administrated prior to injury significantly decreased cell proliferation by 60 and 70% respectively. The distance of GFAP immunoreactive astrocytes from the wound margin was decreased by 32 and 18% when octanol was administrated prior to or post injury respectively. Treatment with octanol also decreased the number of reactive microglia by 55% and, when administrated prior to injury, octanol reduced the distance of NG2 expression from the wound by 48%. CONCLUSION: The present study demonstrates that two important components of reactive gliosis, cellular activation and proliferation, can be attenuated by octanol and carbenoxolone.