GAP-43 is a membrane phosphoprotein that is important for the development and plasticity of neural connections. In undifferentiated PC12 pheochromocytoma cells, GAP-43 mRNA degrades rapidly ( t = 5 h), but becomes stable when cells are treated with nerve growth factor. To identify trans- acting factors that may influence mRNA stability, we combined column chromatography and gel mobility shift assays to isolate GAP-43 mRNA binding proteins from neonatal bovine brain tissue. This resulted in the isolation of two proteins that bind specifically and competitively to a pyrimidine-rich sequence in the 3'-untranslated region of GAP-43 mRNA. Partial amino acid sequencing revealed that one of the RNA binding proteins coincides with FBP (far upstream element binding protein), previously characterized as a protein that resembles hnRNP K and which binds to a single-stranded, pyrimidine-rich DNA sequence upstream of the c -myc gene to activate its expression. The other binding protein shares sequence homology with PTB, a polypyrimidine tract binding protein implicated in RNA splicing and regulation of translation initiation. The two proteins bind to a 26 nt pyrimidine-rich sequence lying 300 nt downstream of the end of the coding region, in an area shown by others to confer instability on a reporter mRNA in transient transfection assays. We therefore propose that FBP and the PTB-like protein may compete for binding at the same site to influence the stability of GAP-43 mRNA.