It is commonly accepted that the endocochlear potential (EP) of the cochlea is generated by an electrogenic transport of potassium into scala media by the marginal cells of stria vascularis. We have studied the potential and potassium concentration gradients as stria vascularis was penetrated with double-barreled potassium selective electrodes in the guinea pig cochlea. Our data demonstrate that a region exists in stria which is positively polarized (higher than the EP), but which has a low (perilymph-like) potassium composition. It is concluded that EP cannot be generated by the marginal cells alone but may involve passive potassium movement across the apical membranes of the basal cells. A model is presented which is consistent with many anatomical and physiological features of stria vascularis.