In temporal lobe epilepsy, excitatory amino acid receptors in the hippocampus and temporal lobe may contribute to both increased excitability and vulnerability to excitotoxic damage. We used receptor autoradiography to examine the density of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and kainic acid (KA) receptors in the hippocampus and parahippocampal gyrus obtained from five patients who had undergone anterior temporal lobectomy for the treatment of intractable seizures and from six control individuals, in which the hippocampus was obtained postmortem. Within the hippocampal formation, loss of [3H]KA and NMDA-sensitive L-[3H]glutamate binding was apparent in the sclerotic regions CA3, hilus, and CA1. In the subiculum and molecular layer of the denate gyrus, binding densities were maintained or even increased in some of the epileptic patients. A two-fold increase in L-[3H]glutamate binding, along with an increase in [3H]KA binding, was observed in the parahippocampal gyrus obtained from the epileptic patients. The results suggest that the vulnerability of the hippocampus in temporal lobe epilepsy may result, at least in part, from the presence of aberrant excitatory circuits in the parahippocampal gyrus.