The role of intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in the muscarinic suppression of Ca2+ current and M-type K+ current has been investigated in isolated rat sympathetic neurons using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique and fura-2 fluorescence measurements. Muscarinic stimulation suppressed currents without raising [Ca2+]i. Nonetheless, intracellular bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetate (BAPTA) (11-12 mM), a Ca2+ chelator, reduced Ca2(+)-current suppression from 82 to 15%. For the latter, we explain the BAPTA action by a requirement for a certain minimum [Ca2+]i for continued operation of the pathway coupling muscarinic receptors to M-type K+ channels. The pathway coupling muscarinic receptors to Ca channels also showed some dependence on [Ca2+]i, but there may also be a blocking action of BAPTA that is independent of Ca2+ chelation.