Dysfunctions of neuronal and network excitability have emerged as common features in disorders associated with intellectual disabilities, autism, and seizure activity, all common clinical manifestations of Rett syndrome (RTT), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations in the transcriptional regulator methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2). Here, we evaluated the consequences of Mecp2 mutation on hippocampal network excitability, as well as synapse structure and function using a combination of imaging and electrophysiological approaches in acute slices. Imaging the amplitude and spatiotemporal spread of neuronal depolarizations with voltage-sensitive dyes (VSD) revealed that the CA1 and CA3 regions of hippocampal slices from symptomatic male Mecp2 mutant mice are highly hyperexcitable. However, only the density of docked synaptic vesicles and the rate of release from the readily releasable pool are impaired in Mecp2 mutant mice, while synapse density and morphology are unaffected. The differences in network excitability were not observed in surgically isolated CA1 minislices, and blockade of GABAergic inhibition enhanced VSD signals to the same extent in Mecp2 mutant and wild-type mice, suggesting that network excitability originates in area CA3. Indeed, extracellular multiunit recordings revealed a higher level of spontaneous firing of CA3 pyramidal neurons in slices from symptomatic Mecp2 mutant mice. The neuromodulator adenosine reduced the amplitude and spatiotemporal spread of VSD signals evoked in CA1 of Mecp2 mutant slices to wild-type levels, suggesting its potential use as an anticonvulsant in RTT individuals. The present results suggest that hyperactive CA3 pyramidal neurons contribute to hippocampal dysfunction and possibly to limbic seizures observed in Mecp2 mutant mice and RTT individuals. © 2011 the American Physiological Society.