1. The modulatory effect of internal Ca2+ on the current through the ACh-activated non-selective cation channels (Ins, ACh) was investigated by the whole-cell patch clamp technique in single isolated cells of guinea-pig ileum. 2. Ins, ACh was isolated with caesium aspartate internal solution of low Ca2(+)-buffering capacity (10 microM-EGTA). With preceding depolarizations which evoked voltage-operated Ca2+ currents (ICa), Ins, ACh increased in amplitude and decayed more rapidly. The extent of this 'facilitating' effect depended on the number and duration of the depolarizations. 3. When depolarizing pulses were applied during the sustained phase of Ins, ACh, they were followed by large inward tail currents. These tail currents (tail Ins, ACh) resembled the non-facilitated Ins, ACh recorded without the depolarizing pulse, in regard to voltage-dependent gating and dependence on the extracellular Na+ concentration, thus suggesting that the currents are flowing through the same class of channels. 4. The tail Ins, ACh was apparently composed of two components distinguished by the insensitivity to organic Ca2+ antagonists. The minor component (about 20% of tail Ins, ACh) showed a rapid decay (about 150 ms at -60 mV) which could be attributed to voltage-dependent kinetics. The major component decayed slowly within 5 s and appeared to be related to changes in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration. The latter component was not recorded when Ba2+ or Sr2+ were used as a charge carrier for ICa and was blocked by 10 microM-D600 or nitrendipine, or Cd2+ 0.2-0.5 mM). 5. The tail Ins, ACh increased in proportion to Ca2+ influx when the duration of depolarizing pulses were prolonged from 15 to 200 ms, but this 'facilitating' effect was greatly suppressed when the cell was perfused with 40 mM-EGTA. 6. When the pCa in the pipette was varied using 40 mM-Ca-EGTA, the conductance through Ins, ACh increased in a manner dependent on intracellular Ca2+ concentration. Half-maximal and submaximal activation occurred at about 200 nM and 1 microM, respectively. 7. These results show that the activity of Ins, ACh is very sensitive to the intracellular Ca2+ concentration in the physiological range.