Abstract Alterations in synaptic efficiency that underlie learning and memory consolidation appear to require an accompanying reconfiguration of the extracellular matrix (ECM). This restructuring of the ECM is carried out, in part, by a family of enzymes called, the matrix metalloproteinases, which includes matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3: stromelysin-1). The present study determined that a transient elevation in hippocampal MMP-3 expression occurred in rats following associative learning in the passive avoidance (PA) task. No change in MMP-3 was observed when rats were exposed either to the behavioral apparatus or the training stimulus alone. Furthermore, when an MMP-3 inhibitor was administered prior to PA training, dose-dependent learning deficits were observed, suggesting a causal relationship between learning-induced hippocampal MMP-3 elevation and associative memory formation. These findings suggest that increased hippocampal MMP-3 expression is an event that may play an important role in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation.