The role of interleukin-6 in hippocampal tissue damage after injection with kainic acid, a rigid glutamate analogue inducing epileptic seizures, has been studied by means of interleukin-6 null mice. At 35 mg/kg, kainic acid induced convulsions in both control (75%) and interleukin-6 null (100%) mice, and caused a significant mortality (62%) only in the latter mice, indicating that interleukin-6 deficiency increased the susceptibility to kainic acid-induced brain damage. To compare the histopathological damage caused to the brain, control and interleukin-6 null mice were administered 8.75 mg/kg kainic acid and were killed six days later. Morphological damage to the hippocampal field CA1-CA3 was seen after kainic acid treatment. Reactive astrogliosis and microgliosis were prominent in kainic acid-injected normal mice hippocampus, and clear signs of increased oxidative stress were evident. Thus, the immunoreactivity for inducible nitric oxide synthase, peroxynitrite-induced nitration of proteins and byproducts of fatty acid peroxidation were dramatically increased, as was that for metallothionein I + II, Mn-superoxide dismutase and Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase. In accordance, a significant neuronal apoptosis was caused by kainic acid, as revealed by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labeling and interleukin-1β converting enzyme/Caspase-1 stainings. In kainic acid-injected interleukin-6 null mice, reactive astrogliosis and microgliosis were reduced, while morphological hippocampal damage, oxidative stress and apoptotic neuronal death were increased. Since metallothionein-I + II levels were lower, and those of inducible nitric oxide synthase higher, these concomitant changes are likely to contribute to the observed increased oxidative stress and neuronal death in the interleukin-6 null mice. The present results demonstrate that interleukin-6 deficiency increases neuronal injury and impairs the inflammatory response after kainic acid-induced seizures. © 2001 IBRO.