The guanidinium toxin-induced inhibition of the current through voltage-dependent sodium channels was examined for batrachotoxin-modified channels incorporated into planar lipid bilayers that carry no net charge. To ascertain whether a net negative charge exists in the vicinity of the toxin-binding site, we studied the channel closures induced by tetrodotoxin (TTX) and saxitoxin (STX) over a wide range of [Na+]. These toxins carry charges of +1 and +2, respectively. The frequency and duration of the toxin-induced closures are voltage dependent. The voltage dependence was similar for STX and TTX, independent of [Na+], which indicates that the binding site is located superficially at the extracellular surface of the sodium channel. The toxin dissociation constant, KD, and the rate constant for the toxin-induced closures, kc, varied as a function of [Na+]. The Na+ dependence was larger for STX than for TTX. Similarly, the addition of tetraethylammonium (TEA+) or Zn++ increased KD and decreased kc more for STX than for TTX. These differential effects are interpreted to arise from changes in the electrostatic potential near the toxin-binding site. The charges giving rise to this potential must reside on the channel since the bilayers had no net charge. The Na+ dependence of the ratios KDSTX/KDTTX and kcSTX/kcTTX was used to estimate an apparent charge density near the toxin-binding site of about -0.33 e X nm-2. Zn++ causes a voltage-dependent block of the single-channel current, as if Zn++ bound at a site within the permeation path, thereby blocking Na+ movement. There was no measurable interaction between Zn++ at its blocking site and STX or TTX at their binding site, which suggests that the toxin-binding site is separate from the channel entrance. The separation between the toxin-binding site and the Zn++ blocking site was estimated to be at least 1.5 nm. A model for toxin-induced channel closures is proposed, based on conformational changes in the channel subsequent to toxin binding.