The rat pheochromocytoma cell line PC12 can be induced by growth factors to undergo proliferation and neuronal differentiation. These cells also have excitable membranes that can be depolarized by neurotransmitters or elevated levels of extracellular KCl. Treatment of PC12 cells with growth factors or membrane-depolarizing agents rapidly activates the expression of specific genes whose products are thought to mediate the subsequent biological responses. One such gene, nur77, is a member of the steroid and thyroid hormone receptor gene superfamily. We have identified the Nur77 protein and shown that it is synthesized rapidly and transiently in PC12 cells following stimulation, has a short half-life of 30 to 40 min, and is located in both the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Nur77 is posttranslationally modified, primarily by phosphorylation on serine residues. Phosphopeptide analysis reveals that Nur77 is modified differently upon membrane depolarization than after treatment with growth factors. We hypothesize that the activity of Nur77 is regulated by both differential gene expression and posttranslational modification and that these modes of regulation contribute to distinct downstream responses specific to membrane depolarization and growth factor treatment.