We have used chemiluminescence measurements to examine the relationship between free radical formation and excitotoxicity in a post-traumatic epilepsy model. For this purpose, seven days after injecting iron in rat brain cortices, we measured luminol-and lucigenin-enhanced chemiluminescence in different brain regions (ipsilateral cortex, contralateral cortex, hypothalamus and hippocampus), In all brain regions (except contralateral cortices) both luminol- and lucigenin-enhanced chemiluminescence were increased in iron-injected group compared to saline-injected control group. These increases returned to control values in iron-injected rats pretreated with MK-801. Our results suggest that both free radicals and excitatory amino acids play important roles in the development of post-traumatic epilepsy and that MK-801 has protective effects against iron-induced chemiluminescence formation. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.