Intracellular recordings were performed on hippocampal CA3 neuronsin vitro to investigate the inhibitory tonus generated by endogenously produced adenosine in this brain region. Bath application of the highly selective adenosine A1 receptor antagonist 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine at concentrations up to 100 nM induced both spontaneous and stimulus-evoked epileptiform burst discharges. Once induced, the 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine-evoked epileptiform activity was apparently irreversible even after prolonged superfusion with drug-free solution. The blockade of glutamatergic excitatory synaptic transmission by preincubation of the slices with the amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolpropionic acid receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (10 μM), but not with theN-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonistd-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (50/μM), prevented the induction of epileptiform activity by 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine. The generation of the burst discharges was independent of the membrane potential, and the amplitude of the slow component of the paroxysmal depolarization shift increased with hyperpolarization, indicating that the 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine-induced bursts were synaptically mediated events. Recordings from tetrodotoxin-treated CA3 neurons revealed a strong postsynaptic component of endogenous adenosinergic inhibition. Both 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine and the adenosine-degrading enzyme adenosine deaminase produced an apparently irreversible depolarization of the membrane potential by about 20 mV. Sometimes, this depolarization attained the threshold for the generation of putative calcium spikes, but no potential changes resembling paroxysmal depolarization shift-like events were observed.