Low frequency-induced short-term synaptic plasticity was investigated in hippocampal slices with 60-electrode recording array. Remarkably, the application of low-frequency stimulation (1 Hz) for a short duration (3-5 min) resulted in the induction of a slow-onset long-term potentiation (LTP) in the immediate vicinity of the stimulated electrode. This phenomenon was observed exclusively in the CA1 subfield, neither in the CA3 area nor in the dentate gyrus. The induction of this slow-onset LTP required neither N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) nor non-NMDA ionotropic receptor activation but was strongly dependent on metabotropic glutamate mGlu(5) receptor stimulation and [Ca(2+)]i increase. In addition, this form of synaptic plasticity was associated with an increase in cAMP concentration and required protein kinase A activation. Paired-pulse facilitation ratio and presynaptic fiber volley amplitude were unaffected when this LTP was triggered, suggesting the involvement of postsynaptic modifications. Although mitogen activated protein kinase pathway was stimulated after the application of low frequency, the induction and maintenance of this slow-onset LTP were not dependent on the activation of this intracellular pathway. The direct activation of adenylyl cyclase with forskolin also induced a synaptic enhancement displaying similar features. This new form of LTP could represent the mnesic engram of mild and repetitive stimulation involved in latent learning.