GABA transporters control extracellular GABA, which regulates the key aspects of neuronal and network behaviour. A prevailing view is that modest neuronal depolarization results in GABA transporter type-1 (GAT-1) reversal causing non-vesicular GABA release into the extracellular space during intense network activity. This has important implications for GABA uptake-targeting therapies. Here we combined a realistic kinetic model of GAT-1 with experimental measurements of tonic GABAA receptor currents in ex vivo hippocampal slices to examine GAT-1 operation under varying network conditions. Our simulations predict that synaptic GABA release during network activity robustly prevents GAT-1 reversal. We test this in the 0 Mg(2+) model of epileptiform discharges using slices from healthy and chronically epileptic rats and find that epileptiform activity is associated with increased synaptic GABA release and is not accompanied by GAT-1 reversal. We conclude that sustained efflux of GABA through GAT-1 is unlikely to occur during physiological or pathological network activity.