1. In insulin-secreting cells the location of the sulphonylurea receptor was examined by use of a sulphonylurea derivative representing the glibenclamide molecule devoid of its cyclohexy moiety (compound III) and a benzenesulphonic acid derivative representing the glibenclamide molecule devoid of its cyclohexylurea moiety (compound IV). At pH 7.4 compound IV is only present in charged form. 2. Lipid solubility declined in the order tolbutamide > compound III > compound IV. 3. The dissociation constant (KD) for binding of compound IV to the sulphonylurea receptor in HIT-cells (pancreatic beta-cell line) was similar to the KD value for tolbutamide and fourfold higher than the KD value for compound III. 4. In mouse pancreatic beta-cells, drug concentrations inhibiting adenosine 5'-triphosphate-sensitive K+ channels (KATP-channels) half-maximally (EC50) were determined by use of the patch-clamp technique. When the drugs were applied to the extracellular side of outside-out or the intracellular side of inside-out membrane patches, the ratio of extracellular to intracellular EC50 values was 281 for compound IV, 25.5 for compound III and 1.2 for tolbutamide. 5. In mouse pancreatic beta-cells, measurement of KATP-channel activity in cell-attached patches and recording of insulin release displayed much higher EC50 values for compound IV than inside-out patch experiments. A corresponding, but less pronounced difference in EC50 values was observed for compound III, whereas the EC50 values for tolbutamide did not differ significantly. 6. It is concluded that the sulphonylurea receptor is located at the cytoplasmic face of the beta-cell plasma membrane. Receptor activation is induced by the anionic forms of sulphonylureas and their analogues.