Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP-38) is a member of the vasointestinal polypeptide (VIP)/secretin/glucagon family of neuropeptides for which neuroregulatory functions have been postulated. PACAP-38 receptors are expressed in different brain regions, including hippocampus. In this study, we examined the dose-dependent effects of PACAP-38 on the excitatory postsynaptic field potential (fEPSP) evoked at the Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapse in rat hippocampal slices. Bath application of low dose (0.05 nM) of PACAP-38 induced long-lasting facilitation of the fEPSP. This enhancement was blocked by the cholinergic receptor antagonist atropine and partially by the NMDA receptor antagonist 2-amino-5-phosphonovalerate (APV) and therefore, shares a common mechanism with LTP. In contrast, a high dose (1 microM) of PACAP-38 induced a persistent depression of the fEPSP that was not blocked by antagonists of cholinergic receptors (i.e., atropine and mecamylamine), adenosine receptors (i.e., DCPCX), or glutamatergic NMDA receptors (APV). Intermediate doses (0.1-0.5 microM) of PACAP-38 produced an initial decrease of the fEPSP followed by an enhancement. This decrease was not blocked by atropine whereas the facilitation was. These results show that PACAP-38 modulates CA1 synaptic transmission in a dose-dependent manner and that the peptide interacts with cholinergic and glutamatergic systems.