Calcium channels are tightly regulated. Voltage-gated calcium channels open only in response to depolarization, while voltage-independent calcium channels usually open only in response to specific intracellular or extracellular ligands. Voltage-independent calcium channels have been described in several invertebrate neurons. One difficulty in understanding the function of the neuronal channels is that their regulators are unknown. They open rarely in intact cells but are activated by formation of a cell-free patch, suggesting that some intracellular inhibitor usually keeps them closed. This article provides evidence that intracellular Mg2+ is one important regulator of the voltage-independent calcium channel (HP channel) in neurons of the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. Mg2+ (1 mM) rapidly and reversibly inhibited activity of this calcium channel when applied to the intracellular side of cell-free membrane patches. The primary effect of the Mg2+ was to promote long closings of the channel. The mechanism of the intracellular Mg2+ inhibition is distinct from open channel block, a phenomenon seen in a variety of cation channels. Open channel block can also be seen in the HP channels, but only at very positive membrane potentials. Some of the permeability and selectivity characteristics of these channels were also examined. The channels are permeable to Mg2+ and Ca2+ as well as Ba2+. Outward currents carried by monovalent cations can be observed only at very positive membrane potentials, indicating high selectivity for divalent over monovalent cations. The single channel current-voltage relationship is markedly nonlinear, becoming quite shallow near the reversal potential, and hence is qualitatively similar to that seen in many voltage-activated calcium channels.