The induction of several forms of long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission in the CA1 region of the mammalian hippocampus is dependent on N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activation and the subsequent activation of protein kinase C (PKC), but the mechanisms that underlie the regulation of PKC in this context are largely unknown. It is known that reactive oxygen species, including superoxide, are produced by N-methyl-D- aspartate receptor activation in neurons, and recent studies have suggested that some reactive oxygen species can modulate PKC in vitro. Thus, we have investigated the role of superoxide in both the induction of LTP and the activation of PKC during LTP. We found that incubation of hippocampal slices with superoxide scavengers inhibited the induction of LTP. The effects of superoxide on LTP induction may involve PKC, as we observed that superoxide was required for appropriate modulation of PKC activation during the induction of LTP. In this respect, superoxide appears to work in conjunction with nitric oxide, which was required for a portion of the LTP-associated changes in PKC activity as well. Our observations indicate that superoxide and nitric oxide together regulate PKC in a physiologic context and that this type of regulation occurs during the induction of LTP in the hippocampus.