Although it is now established that neurogenesis of dentate gyrus granule cells increases after experimental seizures, little is currently known about the function of the new granule cells. One question is whether they become integrated into the network around them. Recent experiments that focused on the newly born granule cells in the hilus showed that indeed the new cells appear to become synchronized with host hippocampal neurons [Scharfman et al. (2000) J. Neurosci. 20, 6144-6158]. To address this issue further, we asked whether the new hilar granule cells were active during spontaneous limbic seizures that follow status epilepticus induced by pilocarpine injection. Thus, we perfused rats after spontaneous seizures and stained sections using antibodies to c-fos, a marker of neural activity, and calbindin, a marker of the newly born hilar granule cells [Scharfman et al. (2000) J. Neurosci. 20, 6144-6158]. We asked whether calbindin-immunoreactive hilar neurons were also c-fos-immunoreactive.C-fos was highly expressed in calbindin-immunoreactive hilar neurons. Approximately 23% of hilar cells that expressed c-fos were double-labeled for calbindin. In addition, other types of hilar neurons, i.e. those expressing parvalbumin or neuropeptide Y, also expressed c-fos. Yet other hippocampal neurons, including granule cells and pyramidal cells, had weak expression of c-fos at the latency after the seizure that hilar neuron expression occurred. In controls, there was very little c-fos or calbindin expression in the hilus.These results indicate that calbindin-immunoreactive hilar cells are activated by spontaneous seizures. Based on the evidence that many of these cells are likely to be newly born, the data indicate that new cells can become functionally integrated into limbic circuits involved in recurrent seizure generation. Furthermore, they appear to do so in a manner similar to many neighboring hilar neurons, apparently assimilating into the local environment. Finally, the results show that a number of hilar cell types are activated during chronic recurrent seizures in the pilocarpine model, a surprising result given that many hilar neurons are thought to be damaged soon after pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus.