Whole cell patch-clamp recordings were used to study the electrical properties of the macrophage-like cell line J774.1, after infection with Leishmania amazonensis. Infection induced a significant increase in cell size and membrane capacitance, suggesting that parasite invasion leads to the addition of plasma membrane to the host cell. By 24 hr after infection, the host cell membrane potential was significantly more hyperpolarized than control cells, and this difference remained for the subsequent 72 hr post-infection. The hyperpolarization was paralleled by an increase in the density of inward rectifying K(+) currents. The shape of the conductance vs. voltage curve, the kinetic properties and the pharmacological profile of these currents were not significantly altered by infection. These results suggest that infection by L. amazonensis causes an increase in the number of functional inward rectifying K(+) channels, leading to hyperpolarization of the host cell membrane.