Cytokines such as interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) are released in the nervous system following inflammation or infection. Recently, IL-1 beta was shown to enhance synaptic inhibitory mechanisms. We therefore investigated the effect of IL-1 beta superfusion on long-term potentiation (LTP), the cellular model of memory and learning, evoked in the CA1 region by tetanic stimulation of the stratum radiatum in the rat hippocampal slice. IL-1 beta (150 pM-1.5 nM) superfused 10 min before tetanic stimulation significantly reduced LTP of the slope of the population excitatory postsynaptic potential (pEPSP) and the population spike (PS) amplitude in CA1 in a concentration-dependent manner. IL-1 beta (1.5 nM) applied for 10 min 1 h before tetanus significantly inhibited LTP of the PS amplitude and pEPSP slope and reduced pEPSP and PS values before tetanus as well, although the PS returned to control values before tetanus. Heat-inactivated IL-1 beta had no effect on pre-tetanus pEPSP or PS values or the induction of LTP. These data demonstrate that IL-1 beta modulates synaptic potentials and reduces LTP. These findings have important implications for the role of IL-1 beta in neuronal disorders following infection, perhaps best exemplified by HIV-1-associated dementia.