1. The single channel properties of KCNQ2/KCNQ3 channels underlying neuronal voltage-dependent M-type potassium currents were studied in cell-attached patches from transfected Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. Macroscopic currents produced by homo- and heteromeric KCNQ2/KCNQ3 channels were measured using the perforated-patch whole-cell technique. 2. Compared with heteromeric KCNQ2 + KCNQ3 channels, homomeric KCNQ2 channels had lower slope conductance (9.0 +/- 0.3 and 5.8 +/- 0.3 pS, respectively) and open probability at 0 mV (0.30 +/- 0.07 and 0.15 +/- 0.03, respectively), consistent with their 3.8-fold smaller macroscopic currents. By contrast, homomeric KCNQ3 channels had the same slope conductance (9.0 +/- 1.1 pS) as KCNQ2 + KCNQ3 channels, and higher open probability (0.59 +/- 0.11), inconsistent with their 12.7-fold smaller macroscopic currents. Thus, KCNQ2 and KCNQ3 subunits may play different roles in the expression of M-type currents, with KCNQ2 ensuring surface expression of underlying channels and KCNQ3 modifying their function. 3. Both in homo- and heteromeric KCNQ2/KCNQ3 channels the shut time distributions were fitted with three, and the open time distributions with two, exponential components. By measuring these and other parameters (e.g. conductance and open probability) KCNQ2/ KCNQ3 channels can be shown to resemble previously characterised neuronal M-type channels.