Previously, we demonstrated that the inwardly rectifying K(+) (Kir) channel subunit Kir7.1 is highly expressed in bovine and human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The purpose of this study was to determine whether any of the 14 other members of the Kir gene family are expressed in native human RPE. Conventional reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis indicated that in addition to Kir7.1, seven other Kir channel subunits (Kir1.1, Kir2.1, Kir2.2, Kir3.1, Kir3.4, Kir4.2 and Kir6.1) are expressed in the RPE, whereas in neural retina, all 14 of the Kir channel subunits examined are expressed. The identities of RT-PCR products in the RPE were confirmed by DNA sequencing. Real-time RT-PCR analysis showed, however, that transcripts of these channels are significantly less abundant than Kir7.1 in the RPE. Western blot analysis of the Kir channel subunits detected in the RPE by RT-PCR revealed the expression of Kir2.1, Kir3.1, Kir3.4, Kir4.2, Kir6.1, and possibly Kir2.2, but not Kir1.1, in both human RPE and neural retina. Our results indicate that human RPE expresses at least five other Kir channel subtypes in addition to Kir7.1, suggesting that multiple members of the Kir channel family may function in this epithelium.