Ion channels in the plasma membrane play critical roles in apoptosis. In a recent study we found that a voltage-dependent anion channel in the plasma membrane (VDACpl) of neuronal hippocampal cell line (HT22) cells was activated during apoptosis and that channel block prevented apoptosis. Whether or not VDACpl is identical to the mitochondrial VDACmt has been debated. Here, we biophysically characterize the apoptosis-inducing VDACpl and compare it with other reports of VDACpls and VDACmt. Excised membrane patches of apoptotic HT22 cells were studied with the patch-clamp technique. VDACpl has a large main-conductance state (400 pS) and occasionally subconductance states of approximately 28 pS and 220 pS. The small subconductance state is associated with long-lived inactivated states, and the large subconductance state is associated with excision of the membrane patch and subsequent activation of the channel. The open-probability curve is bell shaped with its peak around 0 mV and is blocked by 30 microM Gd3+. The gating can be described by a symmetrical seven-state model with one open state and six closed or inactivated states. These channel properties are similar to those of VDACmt and other VDACpls and are discussed in relation to apoptosis.