The sodium channel, one of the family of structurally homologous voltage-gated ion channels, differs from other members, such as the calcium and the potassium channels, in its high selectivity for Na+. This selectivity presumably reflects a distinct structure of its ion-conducting pore. We have recently identified two clusters of predominantly negatively charged amino-acid residues, located at equivalent positions in the four internal repeats of the sodium channel as the main determinants of sensitivity to the blockers tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin. All site-directed mutations reducing net negative charge at these positions also caused a marked decrease in single-channel conductance. Thus these two amino-acid clusters probably form part of the extracellular mouth and/or the pore wall of the sodium channel. We report here the effects on ion selectivity of replacing lysine at position 1,422 in repeat III and/or alanine at position 1,714 in repeat IV of rat sodium channel II (ref. 3), each located in one of the two clusters, by glutamic acid, which occurs at the equivalent positions in calcium channels. These amino-acid substitutions, unlike other substitutions in the adjacent regions, alter ion-selection properties of the sodium channel to resemble those of calcium channels. This result indicates that lysine 1,422 and alanine 1,714 are critical in determining the ion selectivity of the sodium channel, suggesting that these residues constitute part of the selectivity filter of the channel.