1. Membrane responses were recorded by a patch pipette technique in cultured cells isolated from rat portal vein. Using the whole-cell mode, pressure ejections of noradrenaline evoked depolarization (current clamp) and inward current (voltage clamp) at membrane potentials of -60 to -70 mV. The noradrenaline-induced response was reversibly blocked by prazosin indicating that the response was mediated by alpha 1-adrenoceptors. 2. The ionic mechanism of the noradrenaline-induced inward current was investigated in potassium-free caesium-containing solutions. Alteration of the chloride equilibrium potential produced similar changes in the reversal potential of the noradrenaline-induced current, indicating that noradrenaline opened chloride-selective channels. There was no evidence implicating sodium or calcium as the charge-carrying ion. 3. Caffeine applied in the bathing solution also induced a transient increase in chloride conductance but the noradrenaline-induced response was lost after application of caffeine. This is interpreted to mean that the increase in chloride conductance induced by noradrenaline and caffeine can occur as a consequence of a rise in intracellular calcium concentration depending on release of calcium from the same intracellular stores. 4. In the presence of caffeine, noradrenaline increased both the voltage-dependent calcium and chloride membrane conductances during application of repetitive depolarizing pulses. It is concluded that in isolated cells of the rat portal vein the depolarization in response to noradrenaline is mediated by an increase in chloride conductance depending on both the calcium release from intracellular stores and the increase of the voltage-dependent calcium current.