1. Injection of aminooxyacetic acid (AOAA) into the entorhinal cortex in vivo produces acute seizures and cell loss in medial entorhinal cortex. To understand these effects, AOAA was applied directly to the medial entorhinal cortex in slices containing both the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus. Extracellular and intracellular recordings were made in both the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus to study responses to angular bundle stimulation and spontaneous activity. 2. AOAA was applied focally by leak from a micropipette or by pressure ejection. Evoked potentials increased gradually within 5 min of application, particularly the late, negative components. Evoked potentials continued to increase for up to 1 h, and these changes persisted for the remainder of the experiment (up to 5 h after drug application). 3. Paired pulse facilitation (100-ms interval) was also enhanced after AOAA application. Increasing stimulus frequency to 1-10 Hz increased evoked potentials further, and after several seconds of such stimulation multiple field potentials occurred. When stimulation was stopped at this point, repetitive field potentials occurred spontaneously for 1-2 min. These recordings, and simultaneous extracellular recordings in different layers, indicated that spontaneous synchronous activity occurred in entorhinal neurons. Intracellularly labeled cortical pyramidal cells depolarized and discharged during spontaneous and evoked field potentials. 4. The effects of AOAA were blocked reversibly by bath application of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist D-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (D-APV; 25 microM) or focal application of D-APV to the medial entorhinal cortex. 5. Simultaneous extracellular recordings from the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus demonstrated that spontaneous synchronous activity in layer III was often followed within several milliseconds by negative field potentials in the terminal zones of the perforant path (stratum moleculare of the dentate gyrus and stratum lacunosum-moleculare of area CA1). The extracellular potentials recorded in the dentate gyrus corresponded to excitatory postsynaptic potentials and action potentials in dentate granule cells. However, extracellular potentials in area CA1 were small and rarely correlated with discharge in CA1 pyramidal cells. 6. The results demonstrate that AOAA application leads to an NMDA-receptor-dependent enhancement of evoked potentials in medial entorhinal cortical neurons, which appears to be irreversible. The potentials can be facilitated by repetitive stimulation, and lead to synchronized discharges of entorhinal neurons. The discharges invade other areas such as the hippocampus, indicating how seizure activity may spread after AOAA injection in vivo. These data suggest that AOAA may be a useful tool to study longlasting changes in NMDA receptor function that lead to epileptiform activity and neurodegeneration.