Synaptic activity produces short-lived second messengers that ultimately yield a long-term depression (LTD) of cerebellar Purkinje cells. Here, we test the hypothesis that these brief second messenger signals are translated into long-lasting biochemical signals by a positive feedback loop that includes protein kinase C (PKC) and mitogen-activated protein kinase. Histochemical "epistasis" experiments demonstrate the reciprocal activation of these kinases, and physiological experiments--including the use of a light-activated protein kinase--demonstrate that such reciprocal activation is required for LTD. Timed application of enzyme inhibitors reveals that this positive feedback loop causes PKC to be active for more than 20 min, allowing sufficient time for LTD expression. Such regenerative mechanisms may sustain other long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity and could be a general mechanism for prolonging signal transduction networks.