This study examined the acute actions of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the rat dentate gyrus after seizures, because previous studies have shown that BDNF has acute effects on dentate granule cell synaptic transmission, and other studies have demonstrated that BDNF expression increases in granule cells after seizures. Pilocarpine-treated rats were studied because they not only have seizures and increased BDNF expression in granule cells, but they also have reorganization of granule cell "mossy fiber" axons. This reorganization, referred to as "sprouting," involves collaterals that grow into novel areas, i.e., the inner molecular layer, where granule cell and interneuron dendrites are located. Thus, this animal model allowed us to address the effects of BDNF in the dentate gyrus after seizures, as well as the actions of BDNF on mossy fiber transmission after reorganization. In slices with sprouting, BDNF bath application enhanced responses recorded in the inner molecular layer to mossy fiber stimulation. Spontaneous bursts of granule cells occurred, and these were apparently generated at the site of the sprouted axon plexus. These effects were not accompanied by major changes in perforant path-evoked responses or paired-pulse inhibition, occurred only after prolonged (30-60 min) exposure to BDNF, and were blocked by K252a. The results suggest a preferential action of BDNF at mossy fiber synapses, even after substantial changes in the dentate gyrus network. Moreover, the results suggest that activation of trkB receptors could contribute to the hyperexcitability observed in animals with sprouting. Because human granule cells also express increased BDNF mRNA after seizures, and sprouting can occur in temporal lobe epileptics, the results may have implications for understanding temporal lobe epilepsy.