Following kainate (KA)-induced lesions of subfield CA3--a lesion relevant to human temporal lobe epilepsy--remaining pyramidal cells in CA1 display synchronous hyperexcitability associated with a loss of synaptic inhibition. Despite this loss, inhibitory interneurons in CA1 remain viable, and the density and function of GABAergic receptors on the CA1 pyramidal cells are maintained at approximately normal levels. To further evaluate inhibition in this system, the authors examined interactions between pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons in paired intracellular recordings. Recordings were carried out in rat hippocampal slices 2-4 weeks following bilateral intraventricular KA injections. The frequency of synaptic interactions between CA1 basket cells and pyramidal cells was lower in hyperexcitable slices than in controls; both synapses in the recurrent inhibitory circuit appeared to be involved. No recurrent excitatory interactions were seen between pyramidal cell pairs in lesioned or normal slices. The weakened interconnections between pyramidal cells and interneurons are consistent with the decreased inhibition previously found in this model. Unexpectedly, strong stimulation, which may directly activate local inhibitory circuitry, was effective in reducing hyperexcitability in KA-lesioned slices. These data suggest that development of recurrent excitatory connections among CA1 hippocampal pyramidal cells contribute little to tissue excitability, and support the hypothesis that a functional uncoupling between inhibitory interneurons and CA1 pyramidal cells is responsible for the seizure-like activity typical of KA-lesioned hippocampus. The data are also consistent with the hypothesis that in the KA model, the structural circuitry needed for inhibition in CA1 is maintained, and can be functionally activated by appropriate stimuli.