Voltage-dependent and calcium-sensitive K+ (MaxiK) channels are key regulators of neuronal excitability, secretion, and vascular tone because of their ability to sense transmembrane voltage and intracellular Ca2+. In most tissues, their stimulation results in a noninactivating hyperpolarizing K+ current that reduces excitability. In addition to noninactivating MaxiK currents, an inactivating MaxiK channel phenotype is found in cells like chromaffin cells and hippocampal neurons. The molecular determinants underlying inactivating MaxiK channels remain unknown. Herein, we report a transmembrane beta subunit (beta2) that yields inactivating MaxiK currents on coexpression with the pore-forming alpha subunit of MaxiK channels. Intracellular application of trypsin as well as deletion of 19 N-terminal amino acids of the beta2 subunit abolished inactivation of the alpha subunit. Conversely, fusion of these N-terminal amino acids to the noninactivating smooth muscle beta1 subunit leads to an inactivating phenotype of MaxiK channels. Furthermore, addition of a synthetic N-terminal peptide of the beta2 subunit causes inactivation of the MaxiK channel alpha subunit by occluding its K+-conducting pore resembling the inactivation caused by the "ball" peptide in voltage-dependent K+ channels. Thus, the inactivating phenotype of MaxiK channels in native tissues can result from the association with different beta subunits.