Pancreatic beta cells and neuronal cells show a large number of similarities. For example, functional receptors for nerve growth factor are present in beta cells. Here we investigate whether TrkC, a neuronal high affinity receptor for neurotrophin-3, is expressed in the insulin-secreting cell line INS-1. We demonstrate the expression in INS-1 cells of mRNAs coding for TrkC identical in size to those found in the brain. As in neuronal cells, different alternatively spliced forms of TrkC mRNA, differing by the insertion of an alternative exon in their kinase domain, were expressed in INS-1 cells. TrkC protein is also expressed in INS-1 cells and is functional. Indeed, when INS-1 cells were treated with neurotrophin-3, TrkC became phosphorylated on tyrosine residues, and the expression of early response genes was induced. This activation of the receptor was paralleled by a rapid and transient increase in cytosolic free calcium due to an influx of extracellular calcium. Functional receptors for NT-3 are thus expressed in INS-1 cells. This cell line provides a new model for the study of NT-3 signal transduction and should be useful in the understanding of the role of neurotrophins in insulin-secreting cells.