K+ channels are major determinants of membrane excitability. Differences in neuronal excitability within the nervous system may arise from differential expression of K+ channel genes, regulated spatially in a cell type-specific manner, or temporally in response to neuronal activity. We have compared the distribution of mRNAs of three K+ channel genes, Kv1.1, Kv1.2, and Kv4.2 in rat brain, and examined activity-dependent changes following treatment with the convulsant drug pentylenetetrazole. Both regional and cell type-specific differences of K+ channel gene expression were found. In addition, seizure activity caused a reduction of Kv1.2 and Kv4.2 mRNAs in the dentate granule cells of the hippocampus, raising the possibility that K+ channel gene regulation may play a role in long-term neuronal plasticity.