The distribution, size, dendritic morphology and synaptic connections of calbindin-, calretinin- and substance P receptor-positive interneurons and pathways have been examined in control and epileptic human dentate gyrus. In the epileptic dentate gyrus, calbindin-containing interneurons are preserved, but their dendrites become elongated and spiny, and several cell bodies appear hypertrophic. The relative laminar distribution of calretinin-containing cells did not change, but their number was considerably reduced. The calretinin-positive axonal bundle at the top of the granule cell layer originating from the supramammillary nucleus expanded, forming a dense network in the entire width of the stratum moleculare. Substance P receptor-immunopositive cells were partially lost in epileptic samples, and in addition, the laminar distribution and dendritic morphology of the surviving cells differed considerably from the controls. In the control human dentate gyrus, the majority of substance P receptor-positive cells can be seen in the hilus, while most are present in the stratum moleculare in the epileptic tissue. Their synaptic input is also changed. The extent of individual pathological abnormalities correlates with each other in most cases. Our data suggest, that although a large proportion of inhibitory interneurons are preserved in the epileptic human dentate gyrus, their distribution, morphology and synaptic connections differ from controls. These functional alterations of inhibitory circuits in the dentate gyrus are likely to be compensatory changes with a role to balance the enhanced excitatory input in the region.