The requirement of postsynaptic calcium influx via L-type channels for the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) of mossy fiber input to CA3 pyramidal neurons was tested for two different patterns of stimulation. Two types of LTP-inducing stimuli were used based on the suggestion that one of them, brief high-frequency stimulation (B-HFS), induces LTP postsynaptically, whereas the other pattern, long high-frequency stimulation (L-HFS), induces mossy fiber LTP presynaptically. To test whether or not calcium influx into CA3 pyramidal neurons is necessary for LTP induced by either pattern of stimulation, nimodipine, a L-type calcium channel antagonist, was added during stimulation. In these experiments nimodipine blocked the induction of mossy fiber LTP when B-HFS was given [34 +/- 5% (mean +/- SE) increase in control versus 7 +/- 4% in nimodipine, P < 0.003]; in contrast, nimodipine did not block the induction of LTP with L-HFS (107 +/- 10% in control vs. 80 +/- 9% in nimodipine, P > 0.05). Administration of nimodipine after the induction of LTP had no effect on the expression of LTP. In addition, B- and L-HFS delivered directly to commissural/associational fibers in stratum radiatum failed to induce a N-methyl--aspartate-independent form of LTP, obviating the possibility that the presumed mossy fiber LTP resulted from potentiation of other synapses. Nimodipine had no effect on calcium transients recorded from mossy fiber presynaptic terminals evoked with the B-HFS paradigm but reduced postsynaptic calcium transients. Our results support the hypothesis that induction of mossy fiber LTP by B-HFS is mediated postsynaptically and requires entry of calcium through L-type channels into CA3 neurons.