The hyperglycaemia-inducing sulphonamide diazoxide has been previously shown to mediate its effects upon insulin secretion by opening K+ channels and hyperpolarizing the β-cell membrane. The target site has been characterized as the ATP-regulated K+ (K+ ATP) channel protein. In the present study, a detailed investigation of interactions of diazoxide and another K+ channel opener, cromakalim, with K+ ATP channels has been performed in individual insulin-secreting cells using patchclamp techniques. In agreement with previous studies, diazoxide and cromakalim were found to be effective only when ATP was present upon the inside face of the plasma membrane. The ability of both diazoxide and cromakalim to open channels was, however, found to diminish with time following isolation of inside-out patches. Within seconds of forming the recording configuration, the actions of both compounds were potent, and were found to decline steadily as the number of operational channels decreased ('run-down'). In open cells, where the plasma membrane remains partially intact, the rate of run-down was significantly reduced, and effects of channel openers were recorded up to 80 min following cell permeabilization. We also demonstrated that in the absence of ATP, but in the presence of ADP, both diazoxide and cromakalim were able to open K+ ATP channels. Interestingly, once the effects of diazoxide and cromakalim on K+ ATP channels in the presence of ATP were lost, both compounds opened channels in the presence of ADP. One implication of these data is that the actions of diazoxide and cromakalim involve regulatory proteins associated with the ion channel; this molecule is able to bind ATP, ADP and possibly other cytosolic nucleotides.