1. Cytochemical and in vitro whole-cell patch clamp techniques were used to investigate granule cell hyperexcitability in the dentate gyrus 1 week after fluid percussion head trauma. 2. The percentage decrease in the number of hilar interneurones labelled with either GAD67 or parvalbumin mRNA probes following trauma was not different from the decrease in the total population of hilar cells, indicating no preferential survival of interneurones with respect to the non-GABAergic hilar cells, i.e. the mossy cells. 3. Dentate granule cells following trauma showed enhanced action potential discharges, and longer-lasting depolarizations, in response to perforant path stimulation, in the presence of the GABA, receptor antagonist bicuculline. 4. There was no post-traumatic alteration in the perforant path-evoked monosynaptic excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs), or in the intrinsic properties of granule cells. However, after trauma, the monosynaptic EPSC was followed by late, polysynaptic EPSCs, which were not present in controls. 5. The late EPSCs in granule cells from fluid percussion-injured rats were not blocked by the NMDA receptor antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (APV), but were eliminated by both the non-NMDA glutamate receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) and the AMPA receptor antagonist GYKI 53655. 6. In addition, the late EPSCs were not present in low (0.5 mM) extracellular calcium, and they were also eliminated by the removal of the dentate hilus from the slice. 7. Mossy hilar cells in the traumatic dentate gyrus responded with significantly enhanced, prolonged trains of action potential discharges to perforant path stimulation. 8. These data indicate that surviving mossy cells play a crucial role in the hyperexcitable responses of the post-traumatic dentate gyrus.
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