Mutations in the Drosophila dunce gene, the structural gene for a cAMP- specific phosphodiesterase (PDE), disrupt normal learning and memory and lead to female sterility. Our experiments address a long-standing question in the genetic dissection of learning and memory of whether dnc is involved in physiological processes underlying learning. Conditional expression of dunce transgenes in dnc adults shortly before training significantly improves learning over nontransgenic controls. Remarkably, behavioral rescue was also observed after induction of a transgene carrying a rat counterpart of dunce. Induction of the transgenes in adult dnc females confers partial rescue of the female sterility phenotype. These data are consistent with a major physiological requirement for the gene's activity in the learning process and show that a rat counterpart can substitute functionally for the Drosophila gene.