Electrical and mechanical properties of the distal canine lower esophageal sphincter were studied in vitro to investigate possible means of inducing pacemaker activity. Both direct excitation and block of potassium conductance were investigated. The acetylcholine analog, carbachol, induced tissue depolarization and increase in tone but no electrical slow waves. Tetra-ethylammonium (TEA) chloride induced depolarization and evoked continuous spiking activity and increase in tone. BaCl did not depolarize the tissue but low amplitude spiking activity developed and increased tone. The putative potassium channel blocker, aminacrine at 2 × 10−4 M, induced electrical slow wave activity in the distal lower esophageal sphincter, with or without superimposed spikes, accompanied by phasic contractile activity. This activity closely resembled the spontaneous pacemaker activity observed previously in the proximal lower esophageal sphincter. The aminacrine-induced activity was abolished by calcium influx blockers. Aminacrine, but not TEA or BaCl, abolished the nonadrenergic nerve-mediated inhibitory junction potentials. In conclusion, block of inhibitory innervation, and induction of electrical slow waves as a control mechanism for phasic contractile activity, seems to require blockade of an aminacrine- but not TEA-sensitive potassium conductance.Key words: smooth muscle, potassium conductance, slow waves, aminacrine, lower esophageal sphincter.