1. The K+ currents which control repolarization in adult mouse ventricle, and the effects of changes in action potential duration on excitation-contraction coupling in this tissue, have been studied with electrophysiological methods using single cell preparations and by recording mechanical parameters from an in vitro working heart preparation. 2. Under conditions where Ca(2+)-dependent currents were eliminated by buffering intracellular Ca2+ with EGTA, depolarizing voltage steps elicited two rapidly activating outward K+ currents: (i) a transient outward current, and (ii) a slowly inactivating or 'sustained' delayed rectifier. 3. These two currents were separated pharmacologically by the K+ channel blocker 4-amino-pyridine (4-AP). 4-AP at concentrations between 3 and 200 microM resulted in (i) a marked increase in action potential duration and a large decrease in the sustained K+ current at plateau potentials, as well as (ii) a significant increase in left ventricular systolic pressure in the working heart preparation. 4. The current-voltage (I-V) relation, kinetics, and block by low concentrations of 4-AP strongly suggest that the rapid delayed rectifier in adult mouse ventricles is the same K+ current (Kv1.5) that has been characterized in detail in human and canine atria. 5. These results show that the 4-AP-sensitive rapid delayed rectifier is a very important repolarizing current in mouse ventricle. The enhanced contractility produced by 4-AP (50 microM) in the working heart preparation demonstrates that modulation of the action potential duration, by blocking a K+ current, is a very significant inotropic variable.