The effect of acute intrahippocampal infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on synaptic transmission in the dentate gyrus was investigated in urethan-anesthetized rats. Medial perforant path-evoked field potentials were recorded in the dentate hilus and BDNF-containing buffer was infused (4 microl, 25 min) immediately above the dentate molecular layer. BDNF led to a slowly developing increase of the field excitatory postsynaptic potential (fEPSP) slope and population spike amplitude. The potentiation either reached a plateau level at approximately 2 h after BDNF infusion or continued to increase for the duration of experiment; the longest time point recorded was 10 h. Mean increases at 4 h after BDNF infusion were 62.2 and 224% for the fEPSP slope and population spike, respectively. No changes in responses were observed in controls receiving buffer medium only or buffer containing cytochrome C. BDNF-induced potentiation developed in the absence of epileptiform activity in the hippocampal electroencephalogram or changes in recurrent inhibition on granule cells as assessed by paired-pulse inhibition of the population spike. We conclude that exogenous BDNF induces a lasting potentiation of synaptic efficacy in the dentate gyrus of anesthetized adult rats.