In cystic fibrosis (CF), numerous epithelial cell functions are abnormal, including Cl- conductance, sodium absorption, mucin sulphation and enzyme secretion. Although the CF gene product, the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), functions as a small linear Cl- channel, it is difficult to attribute such pleiotropic disease manifestations solely to a defect in Cl- conductance. This has led to speculation that CFTR regulates the activity of other proteins. One possible example is the protein kinase A activation of outward rectifying Cl- channels (ORCC), which is defective in membrane patches excised from CF cells. Whether CFTR regulates the activity of an independent anion channel is debatable, because ORCC occur exclusively in excised membrane patches and could be an excision-induced molecular derivative of CFTR. 'Knockout' mice that lack CFTR provide a means to define the relationship between CFTR and ORCC. Here we report that ORCC are present in CFTR(-/-) mouse nasal epithelial cells and thus cannot be a derivative of the CFTR molecule. Also ORCC were regulated by protein kinase A in membrane patches from normal but not CFTR(-/-) cells. These observations are the first, to our knowledge definitive demonstration that CFTR regulates the activity of another protein.