Alamethicin, a peptide antibiotic, partitions into artificial lipid bilayer membranes and into frog myelinated nerve membranes, inducing a voltage-dependent conductance. Discrete changes in conductance representing single-channel events with multiple open states can be detected in either frog node or lipid bilayer membranes. In 120 mM salt solution, the average conductance of a single channel is approximately 600 pS. The channel lifetimes are roughly two times longer in the node membrane than in a phosphatidylethanolamine bilayer at the same membrane potential. With 2 or 20 mM external Ca and internal CsCl, the alamethicin-induced conductance of frog nodal membrane inactivates. Inactivation is abolished by internal EGTA, suggesting that internal accumulation of calcium ions is responsible for the inactivation, through binding of Ca to negative internal surface charges. As a probe for both external and internal surface charges, alamethicin indicates a surface potential difference of approximately -20 to -30 mV, with the inner surface more negative. This surface charge asymmetry is opposite to the surface potential distribution near sodium channels.