Acetylcholine, the major excitatory neurotransmitter to the smooth muscle of mammalian intestine, is known to depolarize smooth muscle cells with an apparent increase in membrane conductance. However, the ionic mechanisms that are triggered by muscarinic receptor activation and underlie this response are poorly understood, due in part to the technical problems associated with the electrophysiological study of smooth muscle. The muscarinic action of acetylcholine in certain neurones has been shown to involve the switching off of a resting K+ current (M-current) and a similar mechanism has recently also been identified in smooth muscle of amphibian stomach. We have now applied the patch-clamp technique to single smooth muscle cells of rabbit jejunum and find that muscarinic receptor activation switches on a nonselective, voltage-sensitive inward current. In addition, acetylcholine activates and then suppresses spontaneous K+ current transients, which are probably triggered by rises in intracellular Ca2+ in these cells.