Through expression of the cloned mouse (mSlo) or human (hSlo) large-conductance (BK) Ca(2+)-activated K+ channel in Xenopus laevis oocytes and HEK 293 cells, we characterized the effects of reported blockers and openers of BK channels to initiate the study of the molecular determinants of BK channel modulation. In oocytes, iberiotoxin and charybdotoxin, peptidyl scorpion toxins, were both equally effective blockers of BK current, although iberiotoxin was significantly more potent than charybdotoxin. The structurally related peptide kaliotoxin was not a potent blocker of BK current. Paxilline, a fungal tremorgenic alkaloid, was an effective but complex blocker of BK current. Tetrandrine, a putative blocker of type II BK channels, and ketamine were relatively ineffective. The putative BK openers NS004 and NS1619, phloretin, niflumic acid, flufenamic acid, and 5-nitro-2-(3-phenylpropylamino)benzoic acid (NPPB) increased BK current in oocytes at microM concentrations; many of these produced biphasic concentration-response relationships. Coapplication of representative blockers and openers revealed several patterns of interaction, including competitive and noncompetitive antagonism. NS1619, niflumic acid, and phloretin were tested by using excised inside-out membrane patches from HEK 293 cells and were found to increase the activity of hSlo BK channels and produce a leftward shift in the G/Gmax-versus-voltage relationship of these channels. These results represent the first comprehensive examination of the molecular pharmacology of BK channels.