We have examined the effects of the protein kinase inhibitor KT5926 on NGF-promoted responses in PC12 and PC12-C41 cells (a subclone of the parental cell line). Our findings reveal that this compound specifically and reversibly prevents the NGF-induced outgrowth and regeneration of neurites. In addition, neurites of NGF-pretreated cells cease further elongation upon exposure to KT5926. However, preexisting neurite networks in the cultures remain intact in the presence of the drug. The inhibition of neuritic growth appears to occur at least in part at the level of growth cones since KT5926 also causes these structures to collapse and inhibits NGF-promoted reactivation of NGF- deprived growth cones. Although KT5926 is an analogue of K-252a, which blocks all responses to NGF, it does not affect other NGF-elicited cellular responses examined, including NGF-dependent priming of cells, gp140prototrk autophosphorylation, immediate-early gene induction, and phosphorylation of several known cytoskeletal proteins (MAP 1.2/1B, chartin MAPs, and beta-tubulin). However, phosphate incorporation into a cytoskeletally localized 58 kDa phosphoprotein, designated pp58, is selectively reduced in KT5926-treated cultures (+/- NGF). Although KT5926 is an in vitro inhibitor of myosin light chain kinase and calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, inhibition of these two kinase activities by ML-9 and KN-62, respectively, applied alone or together, does not mimic the effects of KT5926 on neurite growth and on pp58 phosphorylation. Taken together, our findings suggest that KT5926, via a previously unidentified protein kinase inhibitory activity, differentially interferes with NGF-promoted growth cone function and consequently affects neuritic outgrowth. This compound should therefore be a useful tool for dissecting the mechanism of NGF actions and affords a means to identify phosphoproteins that play specific roles in neurite growth/elongation.