14-3-3 proteins are ubiquitous signalling molecules that regulate development and survival pathways in brain. Altered expression and cellular localization of 14-3-3 proteins has been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases and in neuronal death after acute neurological insults, including seizures. Presently, we examined expression and function of 14-3-3 isoforms in vitro using mouse organotypic hippocampal cultures. Treatment of cultures with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stressor tunicamycin caused an increase in levels of 14-3-3 zeta within the ER-containing microsomal fraction, along with up-regulation of Lys-Asp-Glu-Leu-containing proteins and calnexin, and the selective death of dentate granule cells. Depletion of 14-3-3 zeta levels using small interfering RNA induced both ER stress proteins and death of granule cells. Treatment of hippocampal cultures with the excitotoxin kainic acid increased levels of Lys-Asp-Glu-Leu-containing proteins and microsomal 14-3-3 zeta levels and caused cell death within the CA1, CA3 and dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Kainic acid-induced damage was significantly increased in each hippocampal subfield of cultures treated with small interfering RNA targeting 14-3-3 zeta. The present data indicate a role for 14-3-3 zeta in survival responses following ER stress and possibly protection against seizure injury to the hippocampus.