Brain-derived neurotrophic factor ( BDNF) contributes to the induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) by theta-pattern stimulation, but the specific processes underlying this effect are not known. Experiments described here, using BDNF concentrations that have minor effects on baseline responses, show that the neurotrophin both reduces the threshold for LTP induction and elevates the ceiling on maximal potentiation. The enhanced LTP proved to be as stable and resistant to reversal as that recorded under control conditions. BDNF markedly increased the facilitation of burst responses that occurs within a theta train. This suggests that the neurotrophin acts on long-lasting events that ( 1) are set in motion by the first burst in a train and ( 2) regulate the amplitude of subsequent bursts. Whole-cell recordings established that BDNF causes a rapid reduction in the size of the long-lasting afterhyperpolarization (AHP) that follows individual theta bursts. Apamin, an antagonist of type 2 small-conductance Ca2+-activated potassium (SK2) channels, also reduced hippocampal AHPs and closely reproduced the effects of BDNF on theta-burst responses and LTP. The latter results were replicated with a newly introduced, highly selective inhibitor of SK2 channels. Immunoblot analyses indicated that BDNF increases SK2 serine phosphorylation in hippocampal slices. These findings point to the conclusion that BDNF-driven protein kinase cascades serve to depress the SK2 component, and possibly other constituents, of the AHP. It is likely that this mechanism, acting with other factors, promotes the formation and increases the magnitude of LTP.