The sporadic form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an idiopathic and eventually lethal disorder causing progressive degeneration of cortical and spinal motoneurons. Recent studies have shown that the majority of patients with sporadic ALS have serum antibodies that bind to purified L-type voltage-gated calcium channels and that antibody titer correlates with the rate of disease progression. Furthermore, antibodies purified from ALS patient sera have been found to alter the physiologic function of voltage-gated calcium channels in nonmotoneuron cell types. Using whole-cell patch-clamp techniques, immunoglobulins purified from sera of 5 of 6 patients with sporadic ALS are now shown to increase calcium currents in a hybrid motoneuron cell line, VSC4.1. These calcium currents are blocked by the polyamine funnel-web spider toxin FTX, which has previously been shown to block Ca2+ currents and evoked transmitter release at mammalian motoneuron terminals. These data provide additional evidence linking ALS to an autoimmune process and suggest that antibody-induced increases in calcium entry through voltage-gated calcium channels may occur in motoneurons in this disease, with possible deleterious effects in susceptible neurons.