Several lines of evidence suggest that cyclic GMP might be involved in long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus. Arachidonic acid, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide, three molecules that have been proposed to act as retrograde messengers in LTP, all activate soluble guanylyl cyclase. We report here that an inhibitor of guanylyl cyclase blocks the induction of LTP in the CA1 region of hippocampal slices. Conversely, cGMP analogues produce long-lasting enhancement of the excitatory postsynaptic potential if they are applied at the same time as weak tetanic stimulation of the presynaptic fibres. The enhancement is spatially restricted, is not blocked by valeric acid (APV), nifedipine, or picrotoxin, and partially occludes LTP. This synaptic enhancement may be mediated by the cGMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG). Inhibitors of PKG block the induction of LTP, and activators of PKG produce activity-dependent long-lasting enhancement. These results suggest that guanylyl cyclase and PKG contribute to LTP, possibly as activity-dependent presynaptic effectors of retrograde messengers.