The voltage-dependent potassium channel subunit Kv2.1 is widely expressed throughout the mammalian CNS and is clustered primarily on the somata and proximal dendrites, but not axons, of both principal neurones and inhibitory interneurones of the cortex and hippocampus. This expression pattern suggests that Kv2.1-containing channels may play a role in the regulation of pyramidal neurone excitability. To test this hypothesis and to determine the functional role of Kv2. 1-containing channels, cultured hippocampal slices were incubated with antisense oligonucleotides directed against Kv2.1 mRNA. Western blot analysis demonstrated that Kv2.1 protein content of cultured slices decreased > 90 % following 2 weeks of treatment with antisense oligonucleotides, when compared with either control missense-treated or untreated cultures. Similarly, Kv2.1 immunostaining was selectively decreased in antisense-treated cultures. Sustained outward potassium currents, recorded in both whole-cell and outside-out patch configurations, demonstrated a selective reduction of amplitude only in antisense-treated CA1 pyramidal neurones. Under current-clamp conditions, action potential durations were identical in antisense-treated, control missense-treated and untreated slices when initiated by low frequency stimulation (0.2 Hz). In contrast, spike repolarization was progressively prolonged during higher frequencies of stimulation (1 Hz) only in cells from antisense-treated slices. Similarly, action potentials recorded during electrographic interictal activity in the 'high [K+]o' model of epilepsy demonstrated pronounced broadening of their late phase only in cells from antisense-treated slices. Consistent with the frequency-dependent spike broadening, calcium imaging experiments from single CA1 pyramidal neurones revealed that high frequency Schaffer collateral stimulation resulted in a prolonged elevation of dendritic [Ca2+]i transients only in antisense-treated neurones. These studies demonstrate that channels containing Kv2.1 play a role in regulating pyramidal neurone somato-dendritic excitability primarily during episodes of high frequency synaptic transmission.