Histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) is thought to play pivotal roles in neurogenesis and neurodegeneration. However, the role of HDAC1 in neuronal growth and structural plasticity in the developing brainin vivoremains unclear. Here, we show that in the optic tectum ofXenopus laevis, HDAC1 knockdown dramatically decreased the frequency of AMPAR-mediated synaptic currents and increased the frequency of GABAAR-mediated currents, whereas HDAC1 overexpression significantly decreased the frequency of GABAAR-mediated synaptic currents. Both HDAC1 knockdown and overexpression adversely affected dendritic arbor growth and visual experience-dependent structural plasticity. Furthermore, HDAC1 knockdown decreased BDNF expression via a mechanism that involves acetylation of specific histone H4 residues at lysine K5. In particular, the deficits in dendritic growth and visually guided avoidance behavior in HDAC1-knockdown tadpoles could be rescued by acute tectal infusion of BDNF. These results establish a relationship between HDAC1 expression, histone H4 modification and BDNF signaling in the visual-experience dependent regulation of dendritic growth, structural plasticity and function in intact animalsin vivo.