1. We have found that capsazepine, a competitive antagonist at the vanilloid (capsaicin) receptor, blocks voltage-activated calcium currents in sensory neurones. 2. The block of calcium current was slow to develop with a half time of about one minute at 100 microM and lasted for the duration of the experiment. The rate of block of calcium current was strongly concentration-dependent. 3. The EC50 for the blocking effect at 0 mV was 7.7 +/- 1.4 microM after 6 min exposure to capsazepine. The EC50 at equilibrium was estimated to be 1.4 +/- 0.2 microM. 4. The block of calcium current showed some voltage-dependence but there was no indication of any selectivity of action for a calcium channel subtype. The characteristics of the blocking action of capsazepine on the residual current of cells which were pretreated with either omega-conotoxin or nimodipine were similar to control. 5. The data suggest that capsazepine, in addition to its competitive antagonism of vanilloid receptors, has a non-specific blocking action on voltage-activated calcium channels which should be taken into account when interpreting the effects of this substance on intact preparations in vitro or in vivo.