The effects of low concentrations of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) on the membrane properties of guinea pig cerebellar Purkinje cells were investigated in slice preparation using intracellular recordings. It was found that 1-10 microM 4-AP did not affect the resting potential or the input resistance of the cells, but reduced markedly the duration of the slowly depolarizing potential (SDP), and thus the latency to the firing of Ca2+ spikes in response to intracellular current pulses. Intradendritic recordings in the presence of tetrodotoxin, Cd2+, and low [Ca2+]o, which blocked all the regenerative responses, exhibited prominent membrane outward rectification in response to depolarizing current pulses. Under these conditions, the SDP was abolished and, in contrast, a slowly developing hyperpolarization was consistently observed. Application of 10 microM 4-AP reduced the outward membrane rectification in a reversible manner, but did not affect the transient hyperpolarization, which is usually attributed to the activation of potassium "A" current. These results demonstrate, for the first time, the presence of a highly 4-AP sensitive delayed rectifier in guinea pig cerebellar Purkinje cells, which prominently affects their excitability. The results also indicate that the slowly depolarizing potential of guinea pig Purkinje cells does not involve inactivation of transient potassium currents, which has been suggested previously as an underlying mechanism for this phenomenon in turtle Purkinje cells.