The mammalian family of two-pore domain K+ (K2P) channel proteins are encoded by 15 KCNK genes and subdivided into six subfamilies on the basis of sequence similarities: TWIK, TREK, TASK, TALK, THIK, and TRESK. K2P channels are expressed in cells throughout the body and have been implicated in diverse cellular functions including maintenance of the resting potential and regulation of excitability, sensory transduction, ion transport, and cell volume regulation, as well as metabolic regulation and apoptosis. In recent years K2P channel isoforms have been identified as important targets of several widely employed drugs, including: general anesthetics, local anesthetics, neuroprotectants, and anti-depressants. An important goal of future studies will be to identify the basis of drug actions and channel isoform selectivity. This goal will be facilitated by characterization of native K2P channel isoforms, their pharmacological properties and tissue-specific expression patterns. To this end the present review examines the biophysical, pharmacological, and functional characteristics of cloned mammalian K2P channels and compares this information with the limited data available for native K2P channels in order to determine criteria which may be useful in identifying ionic currents mediated by native channel isoforms and investigating their pharmacological and functional characteristics.