Kainic acid (KA) lesions of the CA3 region of the hippocampus lead to denervation of ipsilateral CA1 neurons. To assess denervation-induced post-synaptic changes, intracellular physiological recordings were performed in the CA1 region in vitro, from both control and KA-treated tissue. The neurons were intracellularly stained with neurobiotin, reconstructed using a quantitative three-dimensional system and analyzed for morphometric and electrotonic parameters. Total dendritic length was slightly longer in the denervated CA1 cells and there was a selective and significant increase in both branches and terminals in the mid-stratum radiatum (300-550 microns from the soma using Sholl analysis) in the KA-treated rats compared to untreated controls, particularly for cells at 5 days post-lesion and later, which exhibited graded synaptically-evoked bursts. However, there was no significant difference in the basal dendritic arborization. Electrotonic modelling of the dendritic structure revealed specific membrane resistivity values of 33.4 k omega.cm2 for the normal CA1 cells and 29.8 K omega-cm2 for the KA-treated cells, assuming an internal resistivity of 200 omega.cm2, shrinkage correction of 1.57 and a spatial distribution of dendritic spines. The number of dendritic terminals of these denervated CA1 neurons at electrotonic distances between 0.5 lambda and 0.7 lambda also significantly increased in the cells from KA-treated animals. These findings indicate that there is a selective and specific increase in the number of apical terminals and dendritic branches following the unilateral kainic acid lesion. These apical branch changes may represent dendritic sprouting as a post-synaptic response to the denervation, which was particularly marked in neurons exhibiting graded synaptic bursting behavior.