ARIA is a glycoprotein purified from chick brain on the basis of its ACh receptor-inducing activity (ARIA). In this study we present evidence that ARIA increases the number of voltage-gated sodium channels in chick muscle as well as the number of ACh receptors (AChRs). Exposure of chick myotubes to ARIA increased by twofold the number of 3H-saxitoxin binding, an effect that is comparable to the increase of AChRs assayed by 125I-alpha-bungarotoxin (125I-alpha-BTX) binding. We also documented effects of ARIA on myoblasts: the number of 125I-alpha-BTX binding sites in the mononucleated muscle cells was increased by 1.5-fold, and the peak TTX-sensitive inward currents increased by the same amount. No change was detected in the voltage dependence of channel activation, in mean channel current, or in mean channel open time. Thus, the Na+ channel is the first molecule, other than AChR subunits, whose expression has been shown to be induced by ARIA. Since sodium channels are concentrated at motor end plates, our results provide circumstantial evidence that ARIA may regulate several genes expressed at developing neuromuscular junctions. Moreover, the finding that ARIA's effects extend to mononucleated myoblasts suggests that this protein may be important during the earliest stages of muscle formation and innervation.