The development of spontaneous limbic seizures was investigated in a rat model in which electrical tetanic stimulation of the angular bundle was applied for up to 90 min. This stimulation produced behavioural and electrographic seizures that led to a status epilepticus (SE) in most rats (71%). Long-term EEG monitoring showed that the majority of the rats (67%) that underwent SE, displayed a progressive increase of seizure activity once the first seizure was recorded after a latent period of about 1 week. The other SE rats (33%) did not show this progression of seizure activity. We investigated whether these different patterns of evolution of spontaneous seizures could be related to differences in cellular or structural changes in the hippocampus. This was the case regarding the following changes. (i) Cell loss in the hilar region: in progressive SE rats this was extensive and bilateral whereas in nonprogressive SE rats it was mainly unilateral. (ii) Parvalbumin and somatostatin-immunoreactive neurons: in the hilar region these were almost completely eliminated in progressive SE rats but were still largely present unilaterally in nonprogressive SE rats. (iii) Mossy fibre sprouting: in progressive SE rats, extensive mossy fibre sprouting was prominent in the inner molecular layer. In nonprogressive SE rats, mossy fibre sprouting was also present but less prominent than in progressive SE rats. Although mossy fibre sprouting has been proposed to be a prerequisite for chronic seizure activity in experimental temporal lobe epilepsy, the extent of hilar cell death also appears to be an important factor that differentiates between whether or not seizure progression will occur.