1. The block of K+ currents by amitriptyline and the related tricyclic compounds cyproheptadine and dizocilpine was studied in dissociated rat sympathetic neurones by whole-cell voltage-clamp recording. 2. Cyproheptadine (30 microM) inhibited the delayed-rectifier current (Kv) by 92% and the transient current (KA) by 43%. For inhibition of Kv, cyproheptaidine had a KD of 2.2 microM. Dizocilpine (30 microM) inhibited Kv by 26% and KA by 22%. The stereoisomers of dizocilpine were equally potent at blocking Kv and KA. 3. Amitriptyline, a weak base, was significantly more effective in blocking Kv at pH 9.4 (KD = 0.46 microM) where the ratio of charged to uncharged drug was 50:50 compared with pH 7.4 (KD = 11.9 microM) where the ratio was 99:1. 4. N-methylamitriptyline (10 microM), the permanently charged analogue of amitriptyline, inhibited Kv by only 2% whereas in the same cells amitriptyline (10 microM) inhibited Kv by 36%. 5. Neither amitriptyline nor N-methylamitriptyline had a detectable effect on Kv when added to the intracellular solution. 6. It is concluded that the uncharged form of amitriptyline is approximately one hundred times more potent in blocking Kv than the charged form. However, this does not seem to be due to uncharged amitriptyline having better access to an intracellular binding site.