Febrile seizures (FS) occur in children as a result of fever. Despite their prevalence, the pathophysiology of FS has remained unclear. Recent evidence from clinical and experimental studies has highlighted a potential role of immune generated products in the genesis of FS. Of particular interest are the pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) and its naturally occurring antagonist, interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra). Using a novel animal model of FS, involving the generation of physiological fever, we investigated the role of the IL-1beta/IL-1ra system in the genesis of FS. We found that animals with FS had increased hippocampal and hypothalamic IL-1beta compared to equally treated animals without FS, which was first evident at onset of FS in the hippocampus. There were no differences in IL-1ra levels. ICV IL-1beta increased the number of animals with FS while IL-1ra had an opposite anti-convulsant effect. The data from these studies, in combination with recent results from other laboratories, have established a putative role for the IL-1beta/IL-1ra system in the genesis of FS.