We used whole cell recording to evaluate functional expression of the intermediate conductance Ca2+-actirated K+ channel, IKCa1, in response to various mitogenic stimuli. One to two days following engagement of T-cell receptors to trigger both PKC- and Ca2+-dependent events, IgCa1 expression increased from an average of 8 to 300-800 channels/cell. Selective stimulation of the PKC pathway resulted in equivalent up-regulation, whereas a calcium ionophore was relatively ineffective. Enhancement in IKCa1 mRNA levels paralleled the increased channel number. The genomic organization of IKCa1, SKCa2, and SKCa3 were defined, and IK(Ca) and SK(Ca) genes were found to have a remarkably similar intron-exon structure. Mitogens enhanced IKCa1 promoter activity proportional to the increase in IKCa1 mRNA, suggesting that transcriptional mechanisms underlie channel up-regulation. Mutation of motifs for AP1 and Ikaros-2 in the promoter abolished this induction. Selective Kv1.3 inhibitors ShK-Dap22, margatoxin, and correolide suppressed mitogenesis of resting T-cells but not preactivated T-cells with up-regulated IKCa1 channel expression. Selectively blocking IKCa1 channels with clotrimazole or TRAM-34 suppressed mitogenesis of preactivated lymphocytes, whereas resting T-cells were less sensitive. Thus, Kv1.3 channels are essential for activation of quiescent cells, but signaling through the PKC pathway enhances expression of IKCa1 channels that are required for continued proliferation.