Perhexiline maleate is an antianginal drug that has been shown to have antiarrhythmic effects in humans. To examine whether some of these clinical observations could be caused by block of cardiac K+ channels, we examined the effects of perhexiline on a rapidly activating delayed rectifier K+ channel (Kv1.5) cloned from human heart and stably expressed in human embryonic kidney cells as well as a corresponding K+ current (the ultra-rapid delayed rectifier, IKur) in human atrial myocytes. With the use of inside-out macropatches, we found that perhexiline inhibited Kv1.5 current in a time- and voltage-dependent manner with an IC50 value of 1.5 x 10(-6) M at +50 mV. Perhexiline reduced Kv1.5 tail current amplitude and slowed its decay relative to control. These data are consistent with blockade of open channels, probably from the intracellular surface. Perhexiline (3 microM) also blocked IKur in human atrial myocytes. The block that was observed was both time- and voltage-dependent in qualitatively similar ways to block of Kv1.5 channels. However, the time-dependent block of IKur by perhexiline was somewhat slower and its voltage-dependence steeper relative to its effects on Kv1.5. These data indicate that perhexiline blocks both cloned and native human cardiac K+ channels. Blockade of one or more types of voltage-dependent K+ channels may explain some of the electrophysiological effects of perhexiline observed in humans.