Secretion of K(+) into endolymph depends on a particular constellation of ion transport proteins in the apical and basolateral membranes of strial marginal cells and vestibular dark cells. One fundamental component is the large chloride conductance of the basolateral membrane, which recycles chloride taken up by the Na(+)-K(+)-Cl(-) cotransporter in the same membrane. Evidence has been reported recently that supports ClC-K, a channel subunit previously thought to be specific to the kidney, as being the molecular entity underlying this conductance. We have isolated protein from the gerbil kidney, stria vascularis and vestibular labyrinth and found by Western blot analysis a 60 kDa band, a 48 kDa band and 54 and 70 kDa bands, respectively, specifically labeled by ClC-K antibody. Subsequent immunohistochemical observations of the inner ear tissues with a confocal microscope on fluorescently labeled tissue sections showed the staining to be restricted to the basolateral region of strial marginal cells and vestibular dark cells. The cochlear staining was distinct from the distribution of the Kir4.1 (KCNJ10) K(+) channel, known to be present only in strial intermediate cells. These findings support the contention that ClC-K is an important component of the basolateral Cl(-) conductance that participates in K(+) secretion by these epithelia.