The molecular forms of Dynorphin A immunoreactivity (Dyn A-IR) detected in hippocampus were resolved by reverse-phase high pressure liquid chromatography (C18-HPLC). Peptide co-eluting with synthetic Dyn A(1-17) represents 20% of the total Dyn A-IR. Dyn A-IR was released from hippocampal slices in vitro by a Ca++-dependent mechanism stimulated by superfusion with K+, kainate or veratrine. Released peptides were resolved by C18-HPLC and shown to contain Dyn A-IR co-eluting with synthetic Dyn A(1-17). These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that Dyn A(1-17) acts as a neurotransmitter at synapses in hippocampus.