The proto-oncogene bcl-2 is an important suppressor of apoptotic cell death in development and of both apoptotic and necrotic cell death in mature neurons. We studied expression of bcl-2 and the related gene, bax, which may promote cell death, after seizures induced by systemic kainate injection in rats. Expression of bcl-2 mRNA was studied by in situ hybridization. Bax and bcl-2 protein expression was studied by immunocytochemistry. Histologic analysis of cresyl violet-stained paraffin sections was performed at 72 h. bcl-2 protein was expressed in CA1 neurons, a region that is injured, yet survives after seizures. Bcl-2 mRNA was expressed in CA3, a region where there is extensive neuronal death at 72 h, but the bcl-2 protein was not translated. However, bax protein expression in CA3 was increased at 24 h. These results support a possible role for bcl-2 in promoting survival of CA3 after seizures.