Subtractive library construction and differential screening were used to identify a cDNA for a cell type-specific immediate early gene induced in rat PC12 pheochromocytoma cells. Sequencing identified the protein product of this gene as rat synaptotagmin IV (SytIV). Synaptotagmins are synaptic vesicle proteins thought to play a role in depolarization-induced, calcium-mediated exocytosis and neurotransmitter release. SytIV mRNA accumulation is transiently induced in PC12 cells by potassium depolarization, calcium ionophore, ATP, and forskolin. In contrast, growth factors and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate induce little or no SytIV mRNA accumulation. Kainic acid-induced seizures in rats are followed by accumulation of SytIV message in the hippocampus and piriform cortex. The SytIV gene may provide a direct link between depolarization-induced neuronal gene expression and subsequent modulation of synaptic structure and function.