1. A double sucrose-gap voltage-clamp technique has been used to study the effects of acetylcholine on the membrane currents in atrial trabeculae of the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana. 2. The second, or slow inward (Ca2+/Na+) current, was found to be markedly reduced by concentrations of acetylcholine greater than approximately 2-0 X 10(-8)M. The resulting decrease in net calcium entry provides a straightforward explanation for the negative inotropic action of acetylcholine in atrial muscle. 3. Measurements of membrane resistance near the resting potential showed that relatively high doses of acetylcholine (approximately 10(-7) M) decrease membrane resistance by about twofold. This effect is shown to be the result of an increase in a time-independent background current which appears to be carried mainly by potassium ions. 4. Using appropriate pharmacological techniques, it has been possible to demonstrate: (i) that the peak slow inward current is reduced to about half its initial value before any significant increase in background current occurs; (ii) that even when a sufficient dose of acetylcholine to produce an increase in background current is used, the background current shows inward-going rectification and cannot account for the observed reduction in the slow inward current. 5. No consistent change was observed in the degree of activation of the time-dependent outward membrane currents after application of concentrations of acetylcholine which produced large decreases in the peak slow inward current. 6. These results are discussed in relation to previous electro-physiological and radioisotope studies of the mechanism of the negative inotropic effect of acetylcholine in cardiac muscle.