Synaptic membranes express cell adhesion molecules. Here we investigate the role of the neural cell adhesion molecules L1 and NCAM in hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP), a sustained-use-dependent increase in synaptic efficacy that has been implicated in learning and memory. L1 and NCAM mediate cell interactions during neural development and are strongly expressed in the hippocampus. They cooperate to strengthen L1-dependent cell adhesion and are coupled to second messenger pathways. We show that LTP in CA1 neurons of rat hippocampal slices was reduced by application of various L1 and NCAM antibodies, recombinant L1 fragments, and upon dissociation of the L1/NCAM complex through oligomannosidic carbohydrates and NCAM peptides. Neither the activation of NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors nor the maintenance of LTP was affected. These results suggest that L1 and NCAM modulate the development or the stabilization of LTP.