Cell death occurs in many neuropathological conditions. However, the mechanisms governing this process(es) remain generally unknown. In this report we studied whether excitotoxic neuronal death evoked by kainic acid (KA) in rat brain is associated with ladder-like DNA fragmentation. DNA was isolated from hippocampi, entorhinal and sensory cortices at various times following intraperitoneal KA (10 mg kg-1) injections. Typical oligonucleosome-sized DNA fragmentation was observed in all three structures at 18 h and 72 h following KA administration. These findings were further confirmed by in situ nick-translation. DNA fragmentation is believed to be diagnostic for apoptosis. The clear ladders of DNA fragmentation appeared after 18 h, although slight degradation was observed as early as 12 h after KA administration.