Ghrelin is an endogenous ligand for GH secretagogue receptor type 1a (GHSR1a), and is produced and released mainly from the stomach. It has been recently demonstrated that ghrelin can function as a neuroprotective factor by inhibiting apoptotic pathways. Kainic acid (KA), an excitatory amino acid l-glutamate analog, causes neuronal death in the hippocampus; previous studies suggest that activated microglia and astrocytes actively participate in the pathogenesis of KA-induced hippocampal neurodegeneration. However, it is unclear whether ghrelin has neuroprotective effect in KA-induced hippocampal neurodegeneration. I.p. injection of KA produced typical neuronal cell death in the CA1 and CA3 pyramidal layers of the hippocampus, and the systemic administration of ghrelin significantly attenuated KA-induced neuronal cell death in these regions through the activation of GHSR1a. Ghrelin prevents KA-induced activation of microglia and astrocytes, and the expression of proinflammatory mediators tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1beta, and cyclooxygenase-2. The inhibitory effect of ghrelin on the activation of microglia and astrocytes appears to be associated with the inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase-3 expression in damaged hippocampal neurons. Our data suggest that ghrelin has a therapeutic potential for suppressing KA-induced pathogenesis in the brain.