1. Physiological and molecular evidence for the presence and functional role of M1 muscarinic cholinergic receptors (mAChRs) in adult guinea-pig ventricular cells is presented. 2. Whole-cell clamp measurements of the L-type calcium current (ICa) in isolated myocytes were performed. Caesium was used to suppress potassium currents. ICa was increased by the muscarinic agonist carbachol in cells pretreated with pertussis toxin which blocked the M2 mAChR-triggered cascade of intracellular signalling, while it was not changed in untreated cells. 3. If the M2-mediated regulation of ICa was blocked by directly saturating the cell with cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) through the patch pipette, application of carbachol induced a further small increase of the current above the level reached after cAMP perfusion. This increase was more pronounced in cells pretreated with pertussis toxin. 4. The carbachol-induced increase of ICa was blocked by the selective M1 mAChR antagonist pirenzepine. 5. The application of high concentrations of carbachol increased the accumulation of [3H]inositol monophosphate up to 240% above control levels. This increase was reduced by application of pirenzepine. 6. The expression of M1 receptor mRNA in ventricular cardiocytes was shown by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. 7. These results suggest that M1 mAChR regulation of ICa can be a component of the paradoxical positive inotropism induced by high concentrations of muscarinic agonists.