Immunoprecipitation, radiophosphorylation and SDS-PAGE autoradiography enable the characterization of sodium channel polypeptides in the central nervous system of insects belonging to four phylogenetically distinct orders: grasshoppers, cockroaches, flies and moth larvae. It has been shown that the insect sodium channels: (1) Are recognized by the previously described (Gordon et al. (1988) Biochemistry 27, 7032-7038) site directed antibodies corresponding to a highly conserved segment linking the homologous domains III and IV in the vertebrate sodium channel alpha subunits. (2) Serve as substrates for phosphorylation by cAMP-dependent protein kinase. (3) Are devoid of disulfide linkage to smaller subunits unlike sodium channels in vertebrate brain. (4) Are glycoproteins as shown in the grasshopper by the decrease of apparent molecular weight following endoglycosidase F treatment and specific binding to the lectins concanavalin A and wheat germ agglutinin. (5) Reveal a diversity with regard to their (a) apparent molecular masses which range from 240 to 280 kDa and (b) V8 proteinase digestion phosphopeptides indicating either differences in the positioning of the enzymatic cleavage and/or phosphorylation sites. These results provide the first evidence for structural diversity of sodium channel subtypes among various insect orders and are compared to their mammalian counterparts.