The levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein mRNA were analysed by in situ hybridization during the first 6 h in experimental models of status epilepticus in the rat. Two different models of status epilepticus were studied: one is produced by the administration of pilocarpine to lithium-treated rats and the other by the intracerebroventricular administration of kainate. Results obtained in the present study showed a very rapid (as early as 1.5 h in periventricular zones of hypothalamus, cerebral cortex, and hippocampal area) up-regulation of GFAP mRNA levels following the pharmacological induction of seizures. Several other areas showed a GFAP activation starting at 3 h such as septum, habenular nuclei, corpus callosum, and cingulum. The comparison of the results obtained in the two models of status epilepticus revealed interesting differences in some brain areas, such as cerebellum and striatum, which can be related to the specific neurotransmitter receptors and neurochemical pathways stimulated by the drugs. Interestingly, some brain areas whose neurons are strongly activated by pilocarpine and kainate (amygdala and CA3 hippocampal field) and that undergo neuronal degeneration did not show the early GFAP response. An interesting spatial feature was observed in several brain regions examined (striatum, septum, and hypothalamus): the response first appeared in the periventricular zones and then diffused to the rest of the brain area. In general GFAP responses in the periventricular zones were early and intense.