Following infection of dissociated embryonic day 13 rat medullary raphe cells with a retrovirus encoding the temperature-sensitive mutant of SV40 large T-antigen (T-ag), a neuronal cell line, RN46A, was cloned by serial dilution. At 33 degrees C, RN46A cells express nuclear T-ag immunoreactivity and divide with a doubling time of 9 hr. Undifferentiated RN46A cells express low levels of neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and low (NF-L)-and medium (NF-M)- but not high (NF-H)- molecular-weight neurofilament proteins. Under differentiation conditions, RN46A cells cease dividing, take on a neuronal morphology, and express enhanced levels of NSE and all three NF proteins. Elevation of intracellular cAMP levels increases neurofilament protein expression, whereas activators of various other intracellular second messenger systems have no effect. Differentiated RN46A cells express low-affinity nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor (p75NGFR) and are immunoreactive using an antibody that recognizes the carboxy-terminal 13 amino acids of all three trk proteins (pan-trk). Both immunoreactivities could be potentiated by treatment with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), NGF, and adrenocorticotropic hormone, fragment 4–10 (ACTH4–10). Differentiated RN46A cells express low levels of tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) immunoreactivity, which could be enhanced by treatment with ACTH4–10, BDNF, or NGF. Low levels of serotonin immunoreactivity are detected in differentiated RN46A cells, and this was potentiated by differentiating RN46A cells with BDNF for 8 d and 40 mM KCl for days 4–8. HPLC analysis confirmed these immunohistochemical data. RN46A cells should prove useful to elucidate intracellular mechanisms that control neurofilament assembly and 5-HT expression in differentiating raphe neurons.