Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, we identified a novel voltage-activated chloride current that was selectively expressed in glioma cells from 23 patient biopsies. Chloride currents were identified in 64% of glioma cells studied in acute slices of nine patient biopsies. These derived from gliomas of various pathological grades. In addition, 98% of cells acutely isolated or in short-term culture from 23 patients diagnosed with gliomas showed chloride current expression. These currents, which we termed glioma chloride currents activated at potentials >45 mV, showed pronounced outward rectification, and were sensitive to bath application of the presumed Cl- channel specific peptide chlorotoxin (approximately 600 nM) derived from Leiurus scorpion venom. Interestingly, low grade tumours (e.g., pilocytic astrocytomas), containing more differentiated, astrocyte-like cells showed expression of glioma chloride currents in concert with voltage-activated sodium and potassium currents also seen in normal astrocytes. By contrast, high grade tumours (e.g., glioblastoma multiforme) expressed almost exclusively chloride currents, suggesting a gradual loss of Na+ currents and gain of Cl- currents with increasing pathological tumour grade. To expand on the observation that these chloride currents are glioma-specific, we introduced experimental tumours in scid mice by intracranial injection of D54MG glioma cells and subsequently recorded from tumour cells and adjacent normal glial cells in acute slices. We consistently observed expression of chlorotoxin-sensitive chloride channels in implanted glioma cells, but without evidence for expression of chloride channels in surrounding "normal" host glial cells, suggesting that these chloride channels are probably a glioma-specific feature. Finding of this novel glioma specific Cl- channel in gliomas in situ and it's selective binding of chlorotoxin may provide a way to identify or target glioma cells in the future.