A striking feature of the alpha-hemolysin channel-a prime candidate for biotechnological applications-is the dependence of its ionic conductance on the magnitude and direction of the applied bias. Through a combination of lipid bilayer single-channel recording and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, we characterized the current-voltage relationship of alpha-hemolysin for all alkali chloride salts at neutral pH. The rectification of the ionic current was found to depend on the type of cations and increase from Li(+) to Cs(+). Analysis of the MD trajectories yielded a simple quantitative model that related the ionic current to the electrostatic potential, the concentration and effective mobility of ions in the channel. MD simulations reveal that the major contribution to the current asymmetry and rectification properties originates from the cationic contribution to the current that is significantly reduced in a cationic dependent way when the membrane polarity is reversed. The variation of chloride current was found to be less important. We report that the differential affinity of cations for the charged residues positioned at the channel's end modulates the number of ions inside the channel stem thus affecting the current properties. Through direct comparison of simulation and experiment, this study evaluates the accuracy of the MD method for prediction of the asymmetric, voltage dependent conductances of a membrane channel.