Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) exerts a myriad of effects in rat hippocampus; it increases the concentration of the proinflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), and signalling via the IL-1 type I receptor (IL-1RI) resulting in phosphorylation of the stress-activated protein kinase, c-jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) and impairment in long-term potentiation (LTP). This study was designed to establish whether activation of JNK is a pivotal event in mediating the effects of LPS in hippocampus and therefore LPS-treated rats were injected intracerebroventricularly with saline, the JNK inhibitor D-JNKI1, or with the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-4, which antagonizes the effects of IL-1beta upstream of JNK activation. We report that IL-4 blocked the LPS-induced increase in IL-1RI expression and associated increases in phosphorylation of JNK and c-jun, whereas D-JNKI1 inhibited the LPS-induced phosphorylation of c-jun. Both IL-4 and D-JNKI1 inhibited the increase in caspase-3 staining which was associated with LPS treatment, and both abrogated the LPS-induced inhibition of LTP in perforant path-granule cell synapses. The data presented are consistent with the proposal that JNK activation, probably as a result of increased IL-1RI activation, is a critical step in mediating the detrimental effects of LPS in hippocampus.