We investigated the effects of a single injection and a daily injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on spatial learning and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the rat dentate gyrus. LPS is derived from the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria and is a potent endotoxin that causes the release of cytokines such as interleukin-1 and tumour necrosis factor. LPS is thought to activate both the neuroimmune and neuroendocrine systems; it also blocks long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. Here, we examined the effects of LPS on a form of hippocampal-dependent learning-spatial learning in the water maze. Rats were injected with LPS intraperitoneally (100 microg/kg) and trained in the water maze. The first group of rats were injected on day 1 of training, 4 h prior to learning the water maze task. Groups 2 and 3 were injected daily, again 4 h prior to the water-maze task; group 2 with LPS and group 3 with saline. A number of behavioural variables were recorded by a computerised tracking system for each trial. The behavioural results showed a single injection of LPS (group 1) impaired escape latency in both the acquisition and retention phases of the study, whereas a daily injection of LPS did not significantly impair acquisition or retention. BDNF expression was analysed in the dentate gyrus of all animals. No significant differences in BDNF expression were found between the three groups.