Associative long-term synaptic depression (LTD) was investigated utilizing negatively correlated activity patterns in the medial and lateral perforant path inputs to the dentate gyrus in anesthetized rats. Normally only nonassociative, or heterosynaptic, LTD is elicited in naive pathways. We report here, however, that associative LTD in the lateral path is readily induced after being "primed" by a brief period of lateral path synaptic activity at a theta rhythm frequency (5 Hz). Priming of associative LTD lasts at least 2 hr and is not seen following priming activity at non-theta frequencies (1 and 15 Hz). N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activation is critical for establishing the priming effect, but not for the subsequent induction of the associative LTD. These data suggest that theta rhythm activity in the dentate gyrus may predispose the system to a specific form of synaptic plasticity, associative LTD.