Maintenance of long-term potentiation (LTP) requires de novo gene expression. Here we report the direct isolation, using PCR-differential display, of genes whose expression level was altered after induction of long-lasting LTP in the hippocampus of freely moving awake rats. Differential display using 480 primer combinations revealed 17 cDNA bands that showed a reproducible change in expression level. These cDNAs represented at least 10 different genes (termed RM1-10), all of which showed up-regulation at 75 min after LTP induction and a return to basal expression levels within 24 h. Three of these genes were known only from expressed sequence tags (RM1-3), two were known genes whose up-regulation by LTP has not been described (GADD153/CHOP and ler5), and five were known genes whose up-regulation by LTP has already been reported (MAPK phosphatase, NGFI-A/zif268, vesl-1S/homer-1a, Ag2, and krox-20). We characterized the expression profiles of genes in the two former categories with respect to NMDA receptor dependency, tissue specificity, and developmental regulation using northern blotting and semiquantitative RT-PCR. The up-regulation of all five of these genes was NMDA receptor-dependent and correlated with the persistence of LTP, suggesting that these genes may play functional roles in prolonged LTP maintenance.