[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cytoplasmic calcium-binding proteins are thought to shield neurons against damage induced by excessive Ca2+ elevations. Yet, in theory, a mobile cellular Ca2+ buffer could just as well promote neuronal injury by facilitating the rapid dispersion of Ca2+ throughout the cytoplasm. In sharp contrast to controls, in mice lacking the gene for calbindin-D28k, synaptic responses of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons which are normally extremely vulnerable to ischemia, recovered significantly faster and more completely after a transient oxygen-glucose deprivation in vitro, and sustained less cellular damage following a 12 min carotid artery occlusion in vivo. Other cellular and synaptic properties such as the altered adaptation of action potential firing, and altered paired-pulse and frequency potentiation at affected synapses in calbindin-D28k-deficient mice were consistent with a missing intraneuronal Ca2+ buffer. Our findings provide direct experimental evidence against a neuroprotective role for calbindin-D28k.