To elucidate chronic actions of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on GABAergic synapses, we examined effects of a long-term application of BDNF for 10-15 days on autapses (synapses) of solitary GABAergic neurons cultured from rat visual cortex. Solitary neuron preparations were used to exclude a possible contamination of BDNF actions on excitatory neurons in dissociated neuron culture or slice preparations. Neurons were confirmed to be GABAergic pharmacologically with bicuculline, a selective antagonist for GABAA receptors and immunocytochemically with antibody against glutamic acid decarboxylase 65, a GABA synthesizing enzyme. To evaluate GABAergic synaptic function, evoked and/or miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) were recorded in the whole-cell voltage-clamp mode. The treatment with BDNF at a concentration of 100 ng/ml enhanced the amplitude of evoked IPSCs and the frequency of miniature IPSCs. In contrast, BDNF did not have a detectable effect on the amplitude of miniature IPSCs and the paired pulse ratio of IPSCs evoked by two, successive activations. To evaluate morphological changes, neurons were immunocytochemically stained with antibodies against microtubule-associated protein 2, to visualize somatodendritic region and synapsin I, to visualize presynaptic sites. The quantitative analysis indicated that BDNF increased the area of soma, the numbers of primary dendrites and dendritic branching points, the total length of dendrites and the number of synaptic sites. Such an action of BDNF was seen in both subgroups of GABAergic neurons, parvalbumin-positive and -negative neurons. To visualize functionally active presynaptic sites, neurons were stained with a styryl dye, FM1-43. BDNF increased the number of stained sites that was correlated with the frequency of miniature IPSCs. These results suggest that the chronic treatment with BDNF promotes dendritic and synaptic development of GABAergic neurons in visual cortex.