1. The activation kinetics of the IRK1 channel stably expressed in L cells (a murine fibroblast cell line) were studied under the whole-cell voltage clamp. Without polyamines or Mg2+ in the pipettes, inward currents showed an exponential activation on hyperpolarization. The steep inward rectification of the currents around the reversal potential (Erev) could be described by the open-close transition of the channel with first-order kinetics. 2. When the tetravalent organic cation spermine (Spm) was added in the pipettes, the activation kinetics changed; this was explicable by the increase in the closing rate constant. The activation of the currents observed without Spm or Mg2+ in the pipettes was ascribed to the unblocking of the 'endogenous-Spm block'. 3. In the presence of the divalent cation putrescine (Put) or of Mg2+ in the pipettes, a different non-conductive state suppressed the outward currents on depolarization; the channels instantaneously changed to the open state on repolarization. As the depolarization was prolonged, this non-conductive state was replaced by the non-conductive state that shows an exponential activation on repolarization. This phenomenon was attributed to the redistribution of the channels from the Put- or Mg(2+)-blocked state to the 'endogenous Spm-blocked state' during depolarization. 4. In the presence of the trivalent cation spermidine (Spd) in the pipettes, two different non-conductive states occurred, showing a faster and a slower activation on repolarization. The rectification around Erev was mainly due to the non-conductive state showing a faster activation, which appeared to be the Spd-blocked state. During depolarization, redistribution of the channels to the 'endogenous Spm-blocked state' also occurred. 5. In the presence of Spd, Put or Mg2+ in the pipettes, the voltage dependence of the activation time constant reflecting the unblocking of the 'endogenous Spm' was shifted in the hyperpolarizing direction. 6. Our results suggest that the 'intrinsic gating' that shows the time-dependent activation on repolarization, and that is responsible for the inward rectification around Erev, reflects the blocking kinetics of the tetravalent Spm.