Abstract: The ontogeny of kainate induction of AP-1 mRNAs, proteins, and DNA binding activities was examined in the rat hippocampus. In addition, kainate induction of preproenkephalin and preprodynorphin mRNAs was examined; these genes have been shown to be induced by kainate and have been suggested to be targets of AP-1 regulation in adult rat hippocampus. Despite producing seizures at postnatal day (P) 7, kainate failed to induce AP-1 or opiate gene expression and did not increase AP-1 DNA binding activity at this age. Basal levels of AP-1 and opiate mRNAs were low in P7 hippocampus. Basal levels of c-jun protein and AP-1 DNA binding activity were elevated in the P7 hippocampus, to values greater than induced levels in adult hippocampus. Furthermore, AP-1 DNA binding in P7 hippocampal nuclear extract was unaffected by antibodies against fos-related antigens, in contrast to hippocampal extracts from the older rats examined. At P14, induction of AP-1 and preproenkephalin (but not preprodynorphin) mRNAs was observed with kainate treatment, but the time course for inductions was delayed relative to kainate inductions in the adult hippocampus. At P21, responses to kainate were similar to the adult response. Unlike in adult hippocampus, seizure activity caused by kainate treatment does not increase the transcription factor and opioid peptide gene expression in the hippocampi of P7 rats.