Functional and pharmacological data point to the involvement of KCNQ1/IsK potassium channels in the basolateral potassium conductance of secretory epithelia. In this study, we report the cloning and electrophysiological characterization of the KCNQ1 protein from the salt secretory rectal gland of the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). The S. acanthias KCNQ1 (s-KCNQ1) cDNA was cloned by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) intensive techniques and showed overall sequence similarities with the KCNQ1 potassium channel subunits of Man, mouse and Xenopus laevis of 64, 70 and 77%, respectively, at the translated amino acid level. Analysis of s-KCNQ1 expression on a Northern blot containing RNA from heart, rectal gland, kidney, brain, intestine, testis, liver and gills revealed distinct expression of 7.4-kb s-KCNQ1 transcripts only in rectal gland and heart. Voltage-clamp analysis of s-KCNQ1 expressed in Xenopus oocytes showed pronounced electrophysiological similarities to human and murine KCNQ1 isoforms, with a comparable sensitivity to inhibition by the chromanol 293B. Coexpression of s-KCNQ1 with human-IsK (h-IsK) induced currents with faster activation kinetics and stronger rectification than observed after coexpression of human KCNQ1 with h-IsK, with the voltage threshold of activation shifted to more negative potentials. The low activation threshold at approximately -60 mV in combination with the high expression in rectal gland cells make s-KCNQ1 a potential candidate responsible for the basolateral potassium conductance.