The tolloid/bone morphogenetic protein-1 family of metalloproteinases have an important role in the regulation of embryonic pattern formation and tissue morphogenesis. Studies suggest that they participate in mechanisms of synaptic plasticity in adults, but very little is known about their function. Recently, we isolated a reptilian ortholog of the tolloid gene family designated turtle tolloid-like gene (tTll). Here, we examined the role of tTLL in an in vitro model of eyeblink classical conditioning using an isolated brainstem preparation to assess its role in synaptic plasticity during conditioning. Analysis by real-time reverse transcription-PCR shows that an extracellularly secreted form of tTLL, tTLLs, is transiently expressed in the early stages of conditioning during conditioned response acquisition, whereas a cytosolic form, tTLLc, is not. Short interfering RNA (siRNA)-directed gene knockdown and rescue of tTLL expression demonstrate that it is required for conditioning. Significantly, we show that tTLLs cleaves the precursor proBDNF into mature BDNF in cleavage assay studies, and application of recombinant tTLLs protein alone to preparations results in induction of mature BDNF expression. The mature form of BDNF is minimally expressed in preparations treated with anti-tTLL siRNA, and the synaptic incorporation of both GluR1- and GluR4-containing AMPA receptors is significantly reduced, resulting in suppression of conditioning. This is the first study to demonstrate that expression of an extracellularly secreted tolloid-like metalloproteinase is regulated in the early stages of classical conditioning and functions in the conversion of proBDNF to mature BDNF. The mature form of BDNF is required for synaptic delivery of AMPA receptors and acquisition of conditioned responses. Copyright © 2009 Society for Neuroscience.