LOSS of hippocampal interneurons has been reported in patients with severe temporal lobe epilepsy and in animals treated with kainate. We investigated the relationship between KA induced epileptiform discharge and loss of interneurons in hippocampal slice cultures. Application of KA (1 μlM) produced reversible epileptiform discharge without neurotoxicity. KA (5 μ.M), in contrast, produced irreversible epileptiform discharge and neurotoxicity, suggesting that the irreversible epileptiform discharge was required for the neuronal loss. Loss of CA3 pyramidal cells and parvalbumin-like immunoreactive (PV-I) interneurons preceded loss of somatostatin-like immunoreactive (SS-I) interneurons suggesting a different time course of KA neurotoxicity in these subpopulations of interneurons.