We report the identification, functional expression, purification, reconstitution and electrophysiological characterization of an up to now unique prokaryotic potassium ion channel (KcsA). It has a rectifying current-voltage relationship and displays subconductance states, the largest of which amounts to A approximately equal to 90 pS. The channel is blocked by Cs- ions and gating requires the presence of Mg2+ ions. The kcsA gene has been identified in the gram-positive soil bacterium Streptomyces lividans. It encodes a predicted 17.6 kDa protein with two potential membrane-spanning helices linked by a central domain which shares a high degree of similarity with the H5 segment conserved among eukaryotic ion channels. Multiple alignments of deduced amino acids suggest that the novel channel has the closest kinship to the S5, H5 and S6 regions of voltage-gated K+ channel families, mainly to the subfamily represented by the Shaker protein from Drosophila melanogaster. Moreover, KcsA is most distantly related to eukaryotic inwardly rectifying channels with two putative predicted transmembrane segments.