Mutations in the presenilin 1 and 2 (PS1 and PS2) genes cause most cases of early onset Alzheimer's disease. The genes encode two homologous multipass membrane proteins. Since the endogenous expression of PS2 has been poorly analyzed to date, we studied PS2 expression and localization in cultured human neuroblastoma cells and mouse neuronal cells. PS2 was mainly detected as a full-length protein of about 52 kDa in these cells and in brain, in contrast to PS1 that is mainly detected as endoproteolytic N-terminal and C-terminal fragments. Using immunofluorescence we found that like PS1, PS2 colocalized with markers of the endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi intermediate compartment, ERGIC-53 and beta-COP. Double labeling for PS1 and PS2 indicated that both proteins are colocalized in neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. To study PS2 expression during differentiation, mouse embryonic carcinoma P19 cells were treated with retinoic acid. We found minimal PS2 expression in undifferentiated cells, an increase from day 2, and a maximum at day 8 after treatment. PS1 expression remained constant during this period. The differential expression of PS1 and PS2 within the P19 cells following retinoic acid treatment indicates different utilization or temporal requirements for these proteins during neuronal differentiation.