The Torpedo Cl- channel, CLC-0, is inhibited by clofibric acid derivatives from the intracellular side. We used the slow gate-deficient mutant CLC-0C212S to investigate the mechanism of block by the clofibric acid-derivative p-chlorophenoxy-acetic acid (CPA). CPA blocks open channels with low affinity (KDO= 45 mM at 0 mV) and shows fast dissociation (koff = 490 s-1 at -140 mV). In contrast, the blocker binds to closed channels with higher affinity and with much slower kinetics. This state-dependent block coupled with the voltage dependence of the gating transitions results in a highly voltage-dependent inhibition of macroscopic currents (KD approximately 1 mM at -140 mV; KD approximately 65 mM at 60 mV). The large difference in CPA affinity of the open and closed state suggests that channel opening involves more than just a local conformational rearrangement. On the other hand, in a recent work (Dutzler, R., E.B. Campbell, and R. MacKinnon. 2003. Science. 300:108-112) it was proposed that the conformational change underlying channel opening is limited to a movement of a single side chain. A prediction of this latter model is that mutations that influence CPA binding to the channel should affect the affinities for an open and closed channel in a similar manner since the general structure of the pore remains largely unchanged. To test this hypothesis we introduced point mutations in four residues (S123, T471, Y512, and K519) that lie close to the intracellular pore mouth or to the putative selectivity filter. Mutation T471S alters CPA binding exclusively to closed channels. Pronounced effects on the open channel block are observed in three other mutants, S123T, Y512A, and K519Q. Together, these results collectively suggest that the structure of the CPA binding site is different in the open and closed state. Finally, replacement of Tyr 512, a residue directly coordinating the central Cl- ion in the crystal structure, with Phe or Ala has very little effect on single channel conductance and selectivity. These observations suggest that channel opening in CLC-0 consists in more than a movement of a side chain and that other parts of the channel and of the selectivity filter are probably involved.