The expression of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is increased during activity-dependent forms of synaptic plasticity. We have found that inhibitors of tPA inhibit the late phase of long-term potentiation (L-LTP) induced by either forskolin or tetanic stimulation in the hippocampal mossy fiber and Schaffer collateral pathways. Moreover, application of tPA enhances L-LTP induced by a single tetanus. Exposure of granule cells in culture to forskolin results in secretion of tPA, elongation of mossy fiber axons, and formation of new, active presynaptic varicosities contiguous to dendritic clusters of the glutamate receptor R1. These structural changes are blocked by tPA inhibitors and induced by application of tPA. Thus, tPA may be critically involved in the production of L-LTP and specifically in synaptic growth.