We previously reported that aging F344XBN rats are more vulnerable to disruptions of memory consolidation processes following an injection of Escherichia coli than are young rats. Furthermore, this disruption was specific to hippocampal-dependent memory. In the present study we examined the time course of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1 beta in young and old rats following a peripheral injection of E. coli. Compared to young rats, aging rats treated with E. coli showed an exaggerated and prolonged up-regulation of IL-1 beta protein in the hippocampus, but not in hypothalamus, parietal cortex, prefrontal cortex, serum or spleen. Aging rats showed greater hippocampal IL-1 beta protein levels than their young counterparts 4h after E. coli, and these levels remained significantly elevated for 8 but not 14 days after E. coli. In a second experiment, aging rats exhibited anterograde memory consolidation impairments 4 and 8 days after an E. coli injection, but not after 14 days. A third experiment revealed that following an E. coli injection, bacterial clearance from the spleen and peritoneum was not impaired in aged rats, suggesting that elevations in hippocampal IL-1 beta were not mediated by impaired clearance in the periphery in aging rats. These data suggest that the exaggerated and prolonged elevation of IL-1 beta, specifically in the hippocampus, may be responsible for hippocampal-dependent memory impairments observed in aging rats following a bacterial infection.