The direct actions of phencyclidine (PCP) on mammalian sarcolemma were examined by determination of the drug's effects on the action potentials of isolated guinea-pig ventricular cells, and on the underlying ionic currents. PCP (10(-6) to 10(-4) M) did not alter the resting membrane potential but produced a dose-dependent prolongation of the duration of the action potential, and a reduction of the rate of depolarization of phase 0 (Vmax) of the action potential. Voltage clamp experiments revealed that PCP blocks both myocardial Ca++ channels and myocardial time-dependent K+ channels. The K+ channel blockade was shown to exhibit an apparent voltage-dependence. The effects of PCP on these ionic channels could explain previous reports of it prolonging myocardial action potentials and conflicting reports of positive and negative inotropism.