Abstract Background Cerebral ischemia involves a series of reactions which ultimately influence the final volume of a brain infarction. We hypothesize that polymorphisms in genes encoding proteins involved in these reactions could act as modifiers of the cerebral response to ischemia and impact the resultant stroke volume. The final volume of a cerebral infarct is important as it correlates with the morbidity and mortality associated with non-lacunar ischemic strokes. Methods The proteins encoded by the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) and glutathione S-transferase omega-1 (GSTO-1) genes are, through oxidative mechanisms, key participants in the cerebral response to ischemia. On the basis of these biological activities, they were selected as candidate genes for further investigation. We analyzed the C677T polymorphism in the MTHFR gene and the C419A polymorphism in the GSTO-1 gene in 128 patients with non-lacunar ischemic strokes. Results We found no significant association of either the MTHFR (p = 0.72) or GSTO-1 (p = 0.58) polymorphisms with cerebral infarct volume. Conclusion Our study shows no major gene effect of either the MTHFR or GSTO-1 genes as a modifier of ischemic stroke volume. However, given the relatively small sample size, a minor gene effect is not excluded by this investigation.