At present, evidence for a plethora of physiological roles for the different classes of peptidyl-prolyl-cis/trans-isomerases (PPIases, EC 126.96.36.199) is emerging. Cyclosporin A (CyA) has been previously reported to disrupt memory formation in a temporally specific manner, when administered intracranially to day-old chicks trained on a single-trial, passive-avoidance task [Bennett, P.C., Zhao, W., Lawen, A. and Ng, K.T. (1996) Brain Res. 730, 107-1171. CyA is known to inhibit both the PPIase activity of cyclophilin and, indirectly, the protein phosphatase activity of calcineurin. Therefore to begin to distinguish between these two functions we studied the effects on memory formation of three non-immunosuppressive CyA analogues, in order to study the involvement of cyclophilins. These drugs retain the capacity to bind to and inhibit the PPIase activity of cyclophilin, but do not bind in the complex with cyclophilin to calcineurin and, therefore, do not inhibit its phosphatase activity. All three drugs exert effects on memory formation comparable to those induced by CyA, significantly inhibiting memory formation when injected intracranially (50 fmol per hemisphere) immediately following training. Brain extracts from chicks treated with [MeVal4]CyA show a strong inhibition of cyclophilin activity. These data show a requirement for the PPIase activity of a cyclophilin for successful memory formation and constitute the first set of data establishing a physiological role for a cyclophilin.