Fast inactivation in ShakerB K channels results from pore-block caused by "ball peptides" attached to the inner part of each K channel. We have examined the question of how many functional inactivating balls are on each channel and how this number affects inactivation and recovery from inactivation. To that purpose we expressed ShakerB in the insect cell line Sf9 and gradually removed inactivation by perfusing the cell interior with the hydrolytic enzyme papain under whole cell patch clamp. Inactivation slows down as the balls are removed by an amount consistent with the presence of four balls on each channel. Recovery from inactivation has the same time course early and late in papain action; it does not depend on the number of balls remaining on the channel, consistent with the idea that reinactivation is not significant during recovery from inactivation. Our conclusion is that ShakerB has four ball peptides, each capable of causing inactivation. Statistically, the balls are identical and independent. The stability of N-type inactivation by the remaining balls is not appreciably affected by removing some of the balls from a channel.