In the rat hippocampus, nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are synthesized by neurons in an activity-dependent manner. Glutamate receptor activation increases whereas GABAergic stimulation decreases NGF and BDNF mRNA levels. Here we demonstrate that NGF and BDNF mRNA and NGF protein are up-regulated in the rat hippocampus by the activation of muscarinic receptors. Conversely, NGF and BDNF enhance the release of acetylcholine (ACh) from rat hippocampal synaptosomes containing the nerve endings of the septal cholinergic neurons. NGF also rapidly increases the high-affinity choline transport into synaptosomes. The reciprocal regulation of ACh, NGF and BDNF in the hippocampus suggests a novel molecular framework by which the neurotrophins might influence synaptic plasticity.