The membrane current underlying the fast excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSC) of bullfrog sympathetic ganglion cells was studied. The relationship between the EPSC amplitude and membrane potential was linear at negative levels of membrane potential, but deviated from the linearity toward a smaller amplitude at positive levels. The falling phase of EPSC almost followed a single exponential decay. The half-decay time (HDT) of EPSC's increased exponentially with an increase in the negativity of membrane potential. The rise time (RT) was also prolonged slightly with membrane hyperpolarization. Lowering of temperature decreased the EPSC amplitude, lengthened markedly the HDT and increased the slope relating the logarithm of the HDT to membrane potential. Neostigmine (1 x 10(-5) M) prolonged both the RT and HDT. A decrease in Ca2+ concentration caused a marked reduction in the EPSC amplitude, and a slight shortening in the RT and HDT. An increase in Ca2+ concentration significantly prolonged the RT and HDT without altering the slope of the relationship between the HDT and membrane potential, while the amplitude of EPSC was increased slightly. The HDT was independent of EPSC amplitude. It is suggested that the mechanism responsible for closing the ion channels of the nicotinic receptor at the subsynaptic membrane is regulated by membrane potential. The possible mechanisms of the action of Ca2+ on the decay phase of EPSC were discussed.