The effects of the temperature-sensitive, immortalizing Simian Virus 40 T antigen, tsA58, on whole-cell potassium conductances were assessed in renal glomerular mesangial cells from H-2Kb-tsA58 transgenic mice . MTT cell viability assay data indicated that in permissive (33 degrees C, 50 U ml-1 gamma-interferon, IFN+) and non-permissive (37 degrees C, without gamma-interferon, IFN-) culture conditions the oncogene was active and inactive respectively. In IFN+ cells whole-cell currents were inhibited by 10 mM 4-aminopyridine, 1 mM ATP and glibenclamide (glyburide, IC50 = 0.4 microM) and stimulated by cromakalim (EC50 = 40 microM). Furthermore, increases in pipette free calcium activity stimulated the potassium conductance (EC50 = 0.5 microM). Apamin inhibited this conductance (IC50 = 9 nM). None of these effects were observed in IFN- cells. The potassium conductance in IFN- cells was activated by a hyposmotic shock and this was inhibited by Gd3. These data indicate that (1) conductances consistent with ATP-sensitive and small, calcium-activated potassium channels are found in IFN+ cells, (2) an osmotically-sensitive channel is found in IFN- cells and (3) channel expression is dependent upon the activation of tsA58.