[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: BSC1, which was originally identified by its sequence similarity to voltage-gated Na(+) channels, encodes a functional voltage-gated cation channel whose properties differ significantly from Na(+) channels. BSC1 has slower kinetics of activation and inactivation than Na(+) channels, it is more selective for Ba(2+) than for Na(+), it is blocked by Cd(2+), and Na(+) currents through BSC1 are blocked by low concentrations of Ca(2+). All of these properties are more similar to voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels than to voltage-gated Na(+) channels. The selectivity for Ba(2+) is partially due to the presence of a glutamate in the pore-forming region of domain III, since replacing that residue with lysine (normally present in voltage-gated Na(+) channels) makes the channel more selective for Na(+). BSC1 appears to be the prototype of a novel family of invertebrate voltage-dependent cation channels with a close structural and evolutionary relationship to voltage-gated Na(+) and Ca(2+) channels.