Thiamine diphosphate (TDP) is an important cofactor of pyruvate (PDH) and alpha-ketoglutarate (KGDH) dehydrogenases and transketolase. Thiamine deficiency leads to reversible and irreversible brain lesions due to impaired oxidative metabolism. A specific non-cofactor role for thiamine has also been proposed in excitable cells and thiamine triphosphate (TTP) might be involved in the regulation of ion channels. Thiamine is taken up by neuroblastoma cells through a high affinity transporter. Inside the cells, it is rapidly phosphorylated to TDP. This high turnover TDP pool is the precursor for TTP. Most of the TDP however has a low turnover and is associated with PDH and KGDH in mitochondria. In excised inside-out patches from neuroblastoma cells, TTP, at a concentration of 1 microM, activates chloride channels of large unitary conductance, the so-called maxi-Cl- channels. These channels are inhibited by oxythiamine from the outide. In addition to the role of TTP in the regulation of chloride channels, thiamine itself, or a presently unknown analog, may have trophic effects on neuronal cells.