We examined the effect of nerve growth factor (NGF) treatment on expression of a neuronal delayed rectifler K+ channel subtype, Kv2.1 (drk1), in PC12 cells. Anti-Kv2.1 antibodies recognized a single polypeptide population of M(r) = 132 kD in PC12 cell membranes, distinct from the more heterogeneous population found in adult rat brain. In response to NGF treatment, levels of Kv2.1 polypeptide in PC12 membranes increased fourfold. This increase in polypeptide levels could be seen within 12 h, and elevated levels were maintained for at least 6 d of continuous NGF treatment. RNase protection assays indicate that this increase in Kv2.1 protein occurs without an increase in steady state levels of Kv2.1 mRNA following NGF treatment. Immunofluorescent localization of the Kv2.1 polypeptide revealed plasma membrane-associated staining of cell bodies in both untreated and NGF-treated PC12 cells. In undifferentiated cells, intense staining is seen at sites of cell-cell and cell-substratum contact. In differentiated cells the most intense Kv2.1 staining is observed in neuritic growth cones. These studies show that in PC12 cells both the abundance and distribution of the Kv2.1 k+ channel are regulated by NGF, and suggest that PC12 cells provide a model for the selective expression of Kv2.1 in neuritic endings.

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