• calcium;
  • development;
  • hippocampus;
  • NMDA receptor;
  • resistance;
  • seizures


Postnatal day (P)20 rats are sensitive to CA1 injury following a single injection of kainic acid (KA) but are resistant to this injury when animals have a history of two neonatal seizures. We hypothesized that the two earlier seizures led to neuroprotection by a preconditioning mechanism. Therefore, morphology, [Ca2+]i and NMDA subunit proteins of the hippocampus were examined after KA was administered once (1 × KA, on P6, P9, P13 or P20), twice (2 × KA, on P6 and P9) or three times (3 × KA, on P6, P9, P13 or P20). After 1 × KA on P20, the Golgi method revealed marked decreases in spine densities and aborization of CA1 and CA3 apical dendrites. After 3 × KA, morphological alterations were attenuated in CA1 neurons and were similar to pruning observed after 1 × KA on P6 or 2 × KA. After 1 × KA at P13, baseline [Ca2+]i was elevated within pyramidal and dentate granule cells. N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) responses were simultaneously enhanced. After 3 × KA, Ca2+ elevations were attenuated. Immunohistochemistry revealed selective depletion of the NR2A/B subunit modulator in the same areas. NR1 subunit expression was downregulated in the subiculum and increased in the CA3, causing a significant shift in the NR1:NR2A/B ratio throughout the hippocampus. After 1 × KA or 3 × KA at P20, reduced expression was only observed in areas of cell injury. Results indicate that different changes in morphology and excitatory responses occur depending upon when seizures begin. Partial pruning and persistent shift in the NR1:NR2A/B ratio among excitatory synapses of the hippocampus early in life may produce epileptic tolerance and protect against subsequent insults.