Many molecular mechanisms for neural adaptation to stress remain unknown.Expression of alternative splice variants of Slo, a gene encoding calcium- and voltage-activated potassium channels, was measured in rat adrenal chromaffin tissue from normal and hypophysectomized animals. Hypophysectomy triggered an abrupt decrease in the proportion of Slo transcripts containing a "STREX" exon. The decrease was prevented by adrenocorticotropic hormone injections. In Xenopus oocytes, STREX variants produced channels with functional properties associated with enhanced repetitive firing. Thus, the hormonal stress axis is likely to control the excitable properties of epinephrine-secreting cells by regulating alternative splicing of Slo messenger RNA.