The effects of systemic administration of kainic acid and pentylenetetrazol on interleukin-1 beta gene expression in the rat brain was studied. After the administration of kainic acid in a convulsive dose (10 mg/kg i.p.), Interleukin-1 beta mRNA was induced intensely in the cerebral cortex, thalamus and hypothalamus, moderately in the hippocampus and weakly in the striatum, but not in the midbrain, pons-medulla and cerebellum. Pentylenetetrazol induced Interleukin-1 beta mRNA in the cerebral cortex, hypothalamus, and hippocampus with a faster time-course than kainic acid. Diazepam suppressed both the convulsion and the induction of Interleukin-1 beta mRNA produced by kainic acid. Dexamethasone suppressed the induction of Interleukin-1 beta mRNA, but did neither the convulsion nor the induction of c-fos mRNA following the injection of kainic acid. These results provide the first evidence that intensive neuronal excitation induces Interleukin-1 beta mRNA in particular regions of the brain.