In both vertebrates and invertebrates, long-term memory differs from short-term in requiring protein synthesis during training. Studies of the gill and siphon withdrawal reflex in Aplysia indicate that similar requirements can be demonstrated at the level of sensory and motor neurons which may participate in memory storage. A single application of serotonin, a transmitter that mediates sensitization, to individual sensory and motor cells in dissociated cell cultures leads to enhanced transmitter release from the sensory neurons that is independent of new macromolecular synthesis. Five applications of serotonin cause a long-term enhancement, lasting one or more days, which requires translation and transcription. Prolonged application or intracellular injection into the sensory neuron of cyclic AMP, a second messenger for the action of serotonin, also produce long-term increases in synaptic strength, suggesting that some of the gene products important for long-term facilitation are cAMP-inducible. In eukaryotic cells, most cAMP-inducible genes so far studied are activated by the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (A kinase), which phosphorylates transcription factors that bind the cAMP-responsive element TGACGTCA. The cAMP-responsive element (CRE) binds a protein dimer of relative molecular mass 43,000, the CRE-binding protein (CREBP), which has been purified and shown to increase transcription when phosphorylated by the A kinase. Here we show that extracts of the Aplysia central nervous system and extracts of sensory neurons contain a set of proteins, including one with properties similar to mammalian CREBPs, that specifically bind the mammalian CRE sequence. Microinjection of the CRE sequence into the nucleus of a sensory neuron selectively blocks the serotonin-induced long-term increase in synaptic strength, without affecting short-term facilitation. Taken together, these observations suggest that one or more CREB-like transcriptional activators are required for long-term facilitation.