Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-regulated HCN channels underlie the Na+-K+ permeable IH pacemaker current. As with other voltage-gated members of the 6-transmembrane KV channel superfamily, opening of HCN channels involves dilation of a helical bundle formed by the intracellular ends of S6 albeit this is promoted by inward, not outward, displacement of S4. Direct agonist binding to a ring of cyclic nucleotide-binding sites, one of which lies immediately distal to each S6 helix, imparts cAMP sensitivity to HCN channel opening. At depolarized potentials, HCN channels are further modulated by intracellular Mg2+ which blocks the open channel pore and blunts the inhibitory effect of outward K+ flux. Here, we show that cAMP binding to the gating ring enhances not only channel opening but also the kinetics of Mg2+ block. A combination of experimental and simulation studies demonstrates that agonist acceleration of block is mediated via acceleration of the blocking reaction itself rather than as a secondary consequence of the cAMP enhancement of channel opening. These results suggest that the activation status of the gating ring and the open state of the pore are not coupled in an obligate manner (as required by the often invoked Monod-Wyman-Changeux allosteric model) but couple more loosely (as envisioned in a modular model of protein activation). Importantly, the emergence of second messenger sensitivity of open channel rectification suggests that loose coupling may have an unexpected consequence: it may endow these erstwhile "slow" channels with an ability to exert voltage and ligand-modulated control over cellular excitability on the fastest of physiologically relevant time scales.