Mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) is often characterized pathologically by severe neuronal loss in the hippocampus. In this study we investigated concomitant appearance of the pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic mechanisms in injured neurons in epileptic human hippocampi. Postsurgical hippocampal specimens of randomly selected 25 patients with MTLE were studied with standard immunohistochemical techniques to detect the below markers of cell death pathways: truncated Bid - tBid, mitochondriat translocation of Bax (markers of pro-apoptotic BcI-2 protein activation) and nuclear translocation of AIF (caspase-independent pro-apoptotic pathway). For cell survival pathways, we investigated the expression of c-IAP1, c-IAP2 and Hsp70 (heat shock protein). Immunopositive cells were counted in different regions of the hippocampus. We also verified IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis) expression with Western blotting. The results were statistically compared with hippocampi from non-epileptic autopsy controls. In patient hippocampi, Bax and tBid immunoreactivity were significantly increased and Bax staining was consistent with mitochondrial translocation. AIF was not translocated to the nucleus. c-IAP1 and c-IAP2 were barely detectable in control hippocampi, whereas their expression was dramatically increased in the patients in all hippocampal subfields. Interestingly, these neurons were also positively co-labeled for tBid and translocated Bax. Hsp70 immunreactivity was significantly increased in all surviving neurons in patient hippocampi whereas degenerating neurons failed to express Hsp70. Our findings are consistent with both pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic mechanisms being active within the same hippocampal neurons of patients with MTLE, illustrating an ongoing struggle between cell death and survival mechanisms in neurons under stress. (C) 2013 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.