The trkB gene encodes a tyrosine kinase receptor which is an essential component of the high-affinity cell surface receptor for the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor. In this report we have used quantitative in situ hybridization to study the expression of trkB messenger RNA in the rat hippocampus following stimulation of afferents in the entorhinal cortex. A bilateral three-fold increase of trkB messenger RNA levels in the hippocampus was seen 4 h after quisqualate injection into the left entorhinal cortex. The increase was confined to the granule layer of the dentate gyrus. A small increase, however, was also seen bilaterally in the pyramidal cell layer. The increases in all hippocampal areas were completely prevented by pretreatment of the animals with systemic injection of diazepam but not with scopolamine. We suggest that glutamate release from cortical afferents to the hippocampus has the capacity to increase neuronal expression of trkB messenger RNA within the hippocampus. The results from the present study extend the interpretation of our previous evidence of cortical transynaptic activation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor messenger RNA and indicate the presence of a concomitant activation of trkB messenger RNA expression in the hippocampus.