Molecular characterization of mammalian voltage-sensitive K+ channel genes and their expression became possible with the cloning of the Shaker locus of Drosophila. However, analysis of the expression patterns and subunit composition of native K+ channel protein complexes requires immunological probes specific for the individual K+ channel gene products expressed in excitable tissue. Here, we describe the generation and characterization of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against eight distinct mammalian K+ channel polypeptides; the Kv1.1, Kv1.2, Kv1.4, Kv1.5 and Kv1.6 Shaker-related alpha-subunits, the Kv2.1 Shab-related alpha-subunit, and the Kv beta 1 and Kv beta 2 beta-subunits. We characterized the subtype-specificity of these mAbs against native K+ channels in mammalian brain and against recombinant K+ channels expressed in transfected mammalian cells. In addition, we used these mAbs to investigate the cellular and subcellular distribution of the corresponding polypeptides in rat cerebral cortex, as well as their expression levels across brain regions.