Spatio-temporal patterns of c-fos mRNA expression were studied in the mouse brain following the partial acquisition of an appetitive conditioning task in a Skinner box. We used two experimental situations: during the initial acquisition of the task (acquisition paradigm) and during the retention test (recall paradigm). In both paradigms the in situ hybridization signal was exclusively located in the hippocampal formation and the posterior cingulate cortex. However, the time-dependent pattern of expression was quite different according to the experimental situation: mRNA levels peaked at 90 min post-test in both paradigms but returned to basal (control) level by 180 min in the acquisition group, while in CA3 and DG subfields, high levels of mRNA expression were maintained at 180 min in the recall group. Taken together these results suggest that the IEG c-fos is implicated in the different phases of post-acquisition memory processes and involve a differential spatio-temporal regulation of its expression in hippocampal subfields.