The potassium (K+) channel opening activity of ZM244085 (9-(3-cyanophenyl)-3,4,6,7,9,10-hexahydro-1,8-(2H,5H)-acridined ione, CAS 149398-59-4), a novel dihydropyridine (DHP), was ascertained. In a set of functional assays, its mechanoinhibitory effect on myogenic activity of guinea pig bladder detrusor muscles, either mildly or highly depolarized with 15 or 80 mmol/l KCl, was measured. ZM244085 had negligible effect on the tone of the detrusor contracted with 80 mmol/l KCl but reduced the myogenic activity induced with 15 mmol/l KCl (IC50=4.2 +/- 0.4 mumol/l). Glibenclamide, an ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channel blocker, competitively antagonized this action of ZM244085 with a pA2 value of 7.6. This functional profile of ZM244085 is similar to that of the prototypic K+ channel opener cromakalim but stands in contrast to that of typical DHP Ca2+ channel blockers such as nifedipine and nimodipine. The membrane potential of the guinea pig detrusor, recorded with intracellular microelectrodes, was hyperpolarized 6.8 +/- 3.1 mV by ZM244085 (10 mumol/l). This hyperpolarization was completely blocked by glibenclamide but not affected by apamin (10 mumol/l), a toxin blocking specifically small conductance and Ca2+ dependent K+ (SKCa) channels. ZM244085 (10 mumol/l) increased the whole cell KATP current in isolated guinea pig detrusor cells by 8.8 +/- 2.5 pA, but failed to activate large conductance and Ca2+ dependent K+ (BKCa) channels in excised inside-out membrane patches from those cells. The results from these studies showed that ZM244085 is a K+ channel opener which activates predominantly KATP channels in vitro to relax bladder detrusors.