Regulation of the expression of MCT1 and MCT2, two isoforms of the monocarboxylate transporter (MCT) family, was investigated in primary cultures of mouse cortical neurons. Under basal conditions, both MCT immunoreactivities (IR) were found in the cell soma and dendrites, although IR for MCT1 appeared less bright than for MCT2. Treatment of cultured cortical neurons with 100 microm noradrenaline (NA) led, after a few hours, to a striking enhancement in fluorescence intensity associated with MCT2 IR in the cell soma as well as in dendrites. In contrast, MCT1 IR was not altered by NA treatment. Western blot experiments performed on cultured neurons treated with NA confirmed that MCT2 protein expression was increased. Forskolin and dBcAMP also enhanced MCT2 expression, suggesting the implication of a cAMP-mediated pathway in the effect of NA. Surprisingly, neither NA, dBcAMP nor forskolin affected MCT2 mRNA expression. Application of cycloheximide, a protein synthesis inhibitor, prevented the enhancement of MCT2 IR, while the mRNA synthesis inhibitor actinomycin D also blocked the effect of NA on MCT2 IR levels. These results suggest that regulation of MCT2 expression in neurons by NA occurs at the translational level despite the requirement for an as yet unknown transcriptional step.