Stromal cell-derived factor-1alpha (SDF-1alpha) is a chemokine whose receptor, CXCR4, is distributed in specific brain areas including hypothalamus. SDF-1alpha has recently been found to play important roles in neurons, although direct modulation of voltage-gated ionic channels has never been shown. In order to clarify this issue, we performed patch-clamp experiments in fetal mouse hypothalamic neurons in culture. SDF-1alpha (10 nm) decreased the peak and rising slope of the action potentials and spike discharge frequency in 22% of hypothalamic neurons tested. This effect was blocked by the CXCR4 antagonist AMD 3100 (1 microm) but not by the metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonist MCPG (500 microm), indicating a direct action of SDF-1alpha on its cognate receptor. This effect involved a depression of both inward and outward voltage-dependent currents of the action potential. We confirmed these effects in the human neuroblastoma cell line SH-SY5Y, which endogenously expresses CXCR4. Voltage-clamp experiments revealed that SDF-1alpha induced a 20% decrease in the peak of the tetrodotoxin-sensitive sodium current and tetraethylammonium-sensitive delayed rectifier potassium current, respectively. Both effects were concentration dependent, and blocked by AMD 3100 (200 nm). This dual effect was reduced or blocked by 0.4 mm GTPgammaS G-protein pre-activation or by pre-treatment with the G-protein inhibitor pertussis toxin (200 ng/mL), suggesting that it is mediated via activation of a G(i/o) protein. This study extends the functions of SDF-1alpha to a direct modulation of voltage-dependent membrane currents of neuronal cells.