The usefulness of bis-(1,3-dibutylbarbituric acid)-trimethine oxonol (DiBAC4(3)), a voltage-sensitive fluorescent dye, for the measurement of membrane potentials (MPs) was evaluated in HEK293 cells, where alpha or alpha plus beta1 subunits of large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels were expressed (HEKBK alpha and HEKBK alphabeta). The fluorescent intensity of DiBAC4(3) was measured at various potentials under voltage-clamp for calibration to estimate the absolute MP semi-quantitatively. The resting MPs measured with DiBAC4(3) were roughly comparable to those recorded with a microelectrode; the MP in HEKBK alphabeta was 10-20 mV more negative than that in native HEK. In HEKBK alpha, the membrane hyperpolarization induced by 10 microM Evans blue, a BK channel opener, was detected with DiBAC4(3). NS-1619, another BK channel opener, induced gradual but substantial change in F/F(K) even in native HEK, while the BK channel opening effect was detected. Oscillatory membrane hyperpolarization was induced in HEKBK alphabeta by application of 10 microM acetylcholine via increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration. The oscillatory hyperpolarization was, however, detected only as a slow hyperpolarization with DiBAC4(3). It can be concluded that relatively slow effects of BK channel modulators can be semi-quantitatively measured by use of DiBAC4(3) in HEKBK, while the limited temporal resolution and possible artifacts should be taken into account.