Effects of early postnatal ethanol exposure on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA expression in the rat hippocampus were investigated. Wistar rats were assigned to either ethanol treatment (ET), separation control (SC) or mother-reared control (MRC) groups. Ethanol exposure was achieved by a vapor inhalation method for 3 hours a day between postnatal days (PND) 10-15. On PND 16, 20, 30, and 60, the expression of BDNF mRNA in the hippocampus was determined using real-time RT-PCR analysis. There was a significant age-related increase in the BDNF mRNA expression between PND 3060 in MRC animals. The BDNF mRNA expression in ET rats was increased at both PND 16 and 20 and thereafter decreased at PND 60 compared to SC animals. Such age-related fluctuation in the expression of BDNF mRNA differed from that of MRC animals. The exact functional implications, if any, of these ethanol-induced changes in BDNF mRNA expression remain unknown although it can be speculated that they may have an effect on the behaviors known to be influenced by the hippocampal formation.