The intracellular segment of the Shaker K+ channel between transmembrane domains S4 and S5 has been proposed to form at least part of the receptor for the tethered N-type inactivation "ball." We used the approach of cysteine substitution mutagenesis and chemical modification to test the importance of this region in N-type inactivation. We studied N-type inactivation or the block by a soluble inactivation peptide ("ball peptide") before and after chemical modification by methanethiosulfonate reagents. Particularly at position 391, chemical modification altered specifically the kinetics of ball peptide binding without altering other biophysical properties of the channel. Results with reagents that attach different charged groups at 391 C suggested that there are both electrostatic and steric interactions between this site and the ball peptide. These findings identify this site to be in or near the receptor site for the inactivation ball. At many of the other positions studied, modification noticeably inhibited channel current. The accessible cysteines varied in the state-dependence of their modification, with five- to tenfold changes in reactions rate depending on the gating state of the channel.