An inwardly rectifying K(+) current is present in atrial cardiac myocytes that is activated by acetylcholine (I(KACh)). Physiologically, activation of the current in the SA node is important in slowing the heart rate with increased parasympathetic tone. It is a paradigm for the direct regulation of signaling effectors by the Gbetagamma G-protein subunit. Many questions have been addressed in heterologous expression systems with less focus on the behaviour in native myocytes partly because of the technical difficulties in undertaking comparable studies in native cells. In this study, we characterise a potassium current in the atrial-derived cell line HL-1. Using an electrophysiological approach, we compare the characteristics of the potassium current with those in native atrial cells and in a HEK cell line expressing the cloned Kir3.1/3.4 channel. The potassium current recorded in HL-1 is inwardly rectifying and activated by the muscarinic agonist carbachol. Carbachol-activated currents were inhibited by pertussis toxin and tertiapin-Q. The basal current was time-dependently increased when GTP was substituted in the patch-clamp pipette by the non-hydrolysable analogue GTPgammaS. We compared the kinetics of current modulation in HL-1 with those of freshly isolated atrial mouse cardiomyocytes. The current activation and deactivation kinetics in HL-1 cells are comparable to those measured in atrial cardiomyocytes. Using immunofluorescence, we found GIRK4 at the membrane in HL-1 cells. Real-time RT-PCR confirms the presence of mRNA for the main G-protein subunits, as well as for M2 muscarinic and A1 adenosine receptors. The data suggest HL-1 cells are a good model to study IKAch.