1. The action of the two diastereometric phosphorothioate derivatives of cAMP, Rp-cAMPs and Sp-cAMPs, was investigated on hyperpolarization-activated 'pacemaker' current (i(f)) recorded in inside-out macropatches from rabbit sino-atrial (SA) node myocytes. 2. When superfused on the intracellular side of f-channels at the concentration of 10 microM, both cAMP derivatives accelerated i(f) activation; their action was moderately less pronounced than that due to the same concentration of cAMP. 3. The measurement of the i(f) conductance-voltage relation by voltage ramp protocols indicated that both cAMP analogues shift the activation curve of i(f) to more positive voltages with no change in maximal (fully activated) conductance. 4. Dose-response relationships of the shift of the i(f) activation curve showed that both Rp-cAMPs and Sp-cAMPs act as agonists in the cAMP-dependent direct f-channel activation. Fitting data to the Hill equation resulted in maximal shifts of 9.6 and 9.5 mV, apparent dissociation constants of 0.82 and 5.4 microM, and Hill coefficients of 0.82 and 1.12 for Sp-cAMPs and Rp-cAMPs, respectively. 5. The activating action of Rp-cAMPs, a known antagonist of cAMP in the activation of cAMP-dependent protein kinase, confirms previously established evidence that f-channel activation does not involve phosphorylation. These results also suggest that the cAMP binding site of f-channels may be structurally similar to the cyclic nucleotide binding site of olfactory receptor channels.