The ATP- and sulphonylurea-sensitivity of the ATP-sensitive K-channel was measured in human pancreatic B cells. In inside-out patches, half-maximal inhibition of channel activity was produced by 10 mumol/l ATP (with 2 mM Mg2+) and ATP-inhibition was partially antagonised by ADP. A significantly lower sensitivity to ATP was found in whole-cell recordings. Tolbutamide inhibited whole-cell ATP-sensitive K-currents half-maximally at 18 mumol/l; the sensitivity to tolbutamide was somewhat less in the inside-out patch. Ca-activated K-channels were unaffected by tolbutamide (10 mmol/l). These results resemble those found for rodent B cells and suggest that sulphonylureas exert their therapeutic effects in Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes by inhibition of the ATP-sensitive K-channel.