Phosphorylation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) is believed to play a critical role in its nicotine-induced desensitization and up-regulation. We examined the contribution of a consensus PKC site in the alpha4 M3/M4 intracellular loop (alpha4S336) on the desensitization and up-regulation of alpha4beta2 nAChRs expressed in oocytes. Position alpha4S336 was replaced with either alanine to abolish potential phosphorylation at this site or with aspartic acid to mimic phosphorylation at this same site. Mutations alpha4S336A and alpha4S336D displayed a threefold increase in the ACh-induced response and an increase in ACh EC(50). Epibatidine binding revealed a three and sevenfold increase in surface expression for the alpha4S336A and alpha4S336D mutations, respectively, relative to wild-type, therefore, both mutations enhanced expression of the alpha4beta2 nAChR. Interestingly, the EC(50)'s and peak currents for nicotine activation remained unaffected in both mutants. Both mutations abolished the nicotine-induced up-regulation that is normally observed in the wild-type. The present data suggest that adding or removing a negative charge at this phosphorylation site cannot be explained by a simple straightforward on-and-off mechanism; rather a more complex mechanism(s) may govern the functional expression of the alpha4beta2 nAChR. Along the same line, our data support the idea that phosphorylation at multiple consensus sites in the alpha4 subunit could play a remarkable role on the regulation of the functional expression of the alpha4beta2 nAChR.