Rats implanted bilaterally with cannulae in the CA1 region of the dorsal hippocampus or in the amygdala were trained in one-trial step-down inhibitory (passive) avoidance using a 0.4 mA footshock. At various times after training (0, 1.5, 3, 6 or 9 h for animals implanted in the hippocampus; 0 or 3 h for those implanted in the amygdala), they received infusions of 8-Br-cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) (1.25 micrograms/side), SKF38393 (7.5 micrograms/side), SCH23390 (0.5 microgram/side), norepinephrine ClH (0.3 microgram/side), timolol ClH (0.3 microgram/side), 8-HO-DPAT (2.5 micrograms/side), NAN-190 (2.5 micrograms/side), forskolin (0.5 microgram/side) or KT5720 (0.5 microgram/side). Rats were tested for retention 24 h after training. SKF38393 is an agonist and SCH23390 an antagonist at dopamine D1 receptors, timolol is a beta-adrenoceptor antagonist, 8-HO-DPAT is an agonist and NAN-190 an antagonist at 5HT1A receptors, forskolin enhances adenylyl cyclase, and KT5720 inhibits protein kinase A. When given into the hippocampus 0 h post-training, norepinephrine enhanced memory and KT5720 was amnestic. When given 1.5 h after training, all treatments were ineffective. When given 3 or 6 h post-training, 8-Br-cAMP, forskolin, SKF 38393, noradrenaline and NAN-190 caused memory facilitation, and KT5720, SCH23390, timolol and 8-HO-DPAT caused retrograde amnesia. At 9 h from training, all treatments were again ineffective. When given into the amygdala 0 or 3 h post-training all treatments were ineffective, except for noradrenaline at 0 h, which caused retrograde facilitation. The data agree with the suggestion that in the hippocampus, but not the amygdala, a cAMP/protein kinase A pathway is involved in memory consolidation at 3 and 6 h from training, and that this is regulated by D1, beta, and 5HT1A receptors. This correlates with a previous report of increased cAMP levels, protein kinase A activity and P-CREB levels at 3-6 h from training in rat hippocampus in this task. This may be taken to suggest that the hippocampus, but not the amygdala, is involved in the long-term storage of step-down inhibitory avoidance in the rat.