Electron microscopic immunocytochemical methods were used to determine the localization, subcellular distribution and expression of activity-regulated cytoskeletal protein (Arc/Arg3.1) in dentate gyrus after unilateral induction of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the perforant pathway of anaesthetized rats. At 2 h post-induction, immunoreaction product was visible in the dentate gyrus in both the granule cell and molecular layers. Arc expression was higher in the potentiated than the unstimulated contralateral hemisphere. Single-section electron microscopy analysis in unstimulated tissue and in tissue prepared 2 and 4 h after LTP induction showed Arc immunoreactivity (Arc-IR) in dendrites, dendritic spines and glia. Arc-IR was associated with synaptic and non-synaptic plasma membrane apposed to axon terminals and with cytoplasmic organelles, including the cytoskeleton. Arc-IR was also present in neuronal perikarya and there was occasional labelling of nuclei and axons. At 2 h post-LTP induction, there were significant increases in Arc-IR within the granule cell and molecular layers of the dentate gyrus and particularly within the middle molecular layer relative to the inner and outer molecular layers. This increase in Arc expression 2 h after LTP induction was blocked by the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonist (RS)-3-2-carboxypiperazin-4-yl-propyl-1-phosphonic acid. In animals killed 4 h after LTP induction, Arc expression had declined and differences between the potentiated and unpotentiated hemispheres were no longer significant. Our data provide ultrastructural evidence for a transient LTP-associated increase in the expression of Arc protein in the middle molecular layer of the dentate gyrus, with preferential targeting to dendrites, dendritic spines and glia.