Membranes vesicles, prepared from bovine rod outer segments were fused with planar lipid bilayers. Two different ion channels were identified by recording currents from single channels. Both types of channels were selective for sodium rather than potassium and were impermeable to chloride ions. Unit conductances were 20 and 120 pS, respectively, in 150 mM sodium chloride. The channel with the larger unit conductance was sensitive to the transmembrane potential. This channel rapidly activated within less than 10 ms after a voltage jump to a more negative membrane potential and then inactivated after several seconds. The duration of the active period and the properties of the channel depended on the amplitude of the voltage jump. The channel of smaller unit conductance did not show any voltage-dependent activation or inactivation. Both types of channels were insensitive to light in the planar bilayer system. Channels incorporated into planar bilayers on a Teflon sandwich septum or on the tip of a glass micropipette gave similar results.