Effects of ethanol (22 mM) on the modulation of synaptic transmission and long-term potentiation (LTP) by the neurosteroid dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS; 10 microM) was examined in the in vitro rat hippocampal slice preparation. The synaptic responses were elicited by Schaffer collateral stimulation and recorded extracellularly in the somatic and dendritic regions of CA1 pyramidal neurons. LTP induction produced an increase (approximately 55% to 75%) in the amplitude of synaptic responses in ethanol and ethanol plus DHEAS (ethanol/DHEAS) treated slices. These increases were significantly smaller than the approximately 130% increase observed previously in slices treated with DHEAS, but were not significantly different from the approximately 82% increase observed in control slices. These results indicate that an ethanol/DHEAS interaction prevents the enhancement of LTP normally observed with DHEAS treatment of hippocampal slices. An ethanol/DHEAS interaction also altered DHEAS's effects on individual synaptic components of the synaptic response to Schaffer collateral stimulation. Ethanol applied before but not after DHEAS prevented DHEAS's enhancement of the NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic component. DHEAS's depression of the GABAA receptor-mediated synaptic component was also blocked by ethanol. Ethanol or DHEAS individually had no effect on the AMPA receptor-mediated synaptic component, but application of ethanol after DHEAS resulted in a small enhancement of this synaptic component, an effect that was not observed if ethanol was applied before DHEAS. These results show that ethanol and DHEAS interact, altering DHEAS's effects on synaptic transmission and LTP in the hippocampus. Such an interaction may be involved in ethanol's actions on the CNS and raises the possibility that ethanol and DHEAS may act via a common site or pathway.