The Noda epileptic rat (NER), a Wistar colony mutant, spontaneously has tonic-clonic convulsions with paroxysmal discharges. In the present study, we measured phasic and tonic γ-aminobutyric acid A (GABAA) current (I tonic) in NER hippocampal dentate gyrus granule cells and compared the results with those of normal parent strain Wistar rats (WIS). I tonic, revealed by a bicuculline-induced outward shift in holding current, was significantly smaller in NER than in WIS (P < 0. 01). The frequency of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) was also significantly lower in NER than in WIS (P < 0.05), without significant differences in the IPSC amplitude or decay time between WIS and NER. I tonic attenuation in NER was further confirmed in the presence of GABA transporter blockers, NO-711 and nipecotic acid, with no difference in neuronal GABA transporter expression between WIS and NER. I tonic responses to extrasynaptic GABAA receptor agonists (THIP and DS-2) were significantly reduced in NER compared with WIS (P < 0.05). Allopregnanolone caused less I tonic increase in NER than in WIS, while it prolonged the IPSC decay time to a similar rate in the two groups. Expression of the GABAA receptor δ-subunit was decreased in the dentate gyrus of NER relative to that of WIS. Taken together, our results showed that a combination of attenuated presynaptic GABA release and extrasynaptic GABAA receptor expression reduced I tonic amplitude and its sensitivity to neurosteroids, which likely diminishes the gating function of dentate gyrus granule cells and renders NER more susceptible to seizure propagation.