Differential mRNA display was carried out to find genes that are differentially regulated in the brain of;a rat strain with absence epilepsy, the genetic absence epilepsy rats from Strasbourg (GAERS). Among the 32 differentially displayed cDNA fragments actually cloned and sequenced, one shows 100% identity with the rat heavy chain ferritin (IP-ferritin) mRNA. Northern ern blot analysis confirmed the up-regulation of the W-ferritin mRNA. Using dot blotting, a 40% increase in expression was reported in the subcortical forebrain of the adult GAERS, while cortex, brain stem, and cerebellum appeared unmodified. This change was not observed in the brain of 25-day-old rats, an age at which the epileptic phenotype is not present. By in situ hybridization, the enhanced expression was localized in the hippocampus. The increase in mRNA encoding H-ferritin was mot immunodetected at the protein level by Western blotting These results are not apparently relates to the neural substrate of SWD or to the distribution of local increase in glucose metabolism previously described in the GAERS. It is hypothesized that the up-regulation of the H-ferritin mRNA is part of a mechanism protecting the hippocampus, a seizure-prone area, against a possible overactivation during absence seizures. (C) 2000 Academic Press.