Ion channels gated by cyclic nucleotides serve multiple functions in sensory signaling in diverse cell types ranging from neurons to sperm. Newly discovered members from bacteria and marine invertebrates provide a wealth of structural and functional information on this channel family. A hallmark of classical tetrameric cyclic-nucleotide-gated channels is their cooperative activation by binding of several ligands. By contrast, the new members seem to be uncooperative, and binding of a single ligand molecule suffices to open these channels. These new findings provide a fresh look at the mechanism of allosteric activation of ion channels.