The immediate early gene c-fos is part of the activator protein-1 transcription factor and has been postulated to participate in the molecular mechanisms of learning and memory. To test this hypothesis in vivo, we generated mice with a nervous system-specific c-fos knock-out using the Cre-loxP system. Adult mice lacking c-Fos in the CNS (c-fosDeltaCNS) showed normal general and emotional behavior but were specifically impaired in hippocampus-dependent spatial and associative learning tasks. These learning deficits correlated with a reduction of long-term potentiation (LTP) in hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapses. The magnitude of LTP was restored by a repeated tetanization procedure, suggesting impaired LTP induction in c-fosDeltaCNS mice. This rescue was blocked by a selective inhibitor of NR2B-type NMDA receptors. This blockade was compensated in wild-type mice by NR2A-type NMDA receptor-activated signaling pathways, thus indicating that these pathways are compromised in c-fosDeltaCNS mice. In summary, our data suggest a role for c-Fos in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory as well as in NMDA receptor-dependent LTP formation.