- 1. Epithelial Na+ channels (ENaCs) are inhibited by the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) when CFTR is activated by protein kinase A. Since cAMP-dependent activation of CFTR Cl- conductance is defective in cystic fibrosis (CF), ENaC currents are not inhibited by CFTR. This could explain the enhanced Na+ conductance found in CF. In the present study, we examined possible mechanisms of interaction between CFTR and ENaC co-expressed in Xenopus oocytes. 2. The magnitude of CFTR Cl- currents activated by 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX) in oocytes co-expressing either wild-type or mutant CFTR and ENaC determined the degree of downregulation of ENaC currents. 3. The ability of CFTR to inhibit ENaC currents was significantly reduced either when extracellular Cl- was replaced by poorly conductive anions, e.g. SCN- or gluconate, or when CFTR was inhibited by diphenylamine-carboxylate (DPC, 1 mmol l-1). 4. Downregulation of ENaC was more pronounced at positive when compared with negative clamp voltages. This suggests that outward currents, i.e. influx of Cl- through activated CFTR most effectively downregulated ENaC. 5. Activation of endogenous Ca2+-activated Cl- currents by 1 micromol l-1 ionomycin did not inhibit ENaC current. This suggests that inhibition of ENaC mediated by Cl- currents may be specific to CFTR. 6. The present findings indicate that downregulation of ENaC by CFTR is correlated to the ability of CFTR to conduct Cl-. The data have implications for how epithelia switch from NaCl absorption to NaCl secretion when CFTR is activated by secretagogues.