HERG is a K+ channel with properties similar to the rapidly activating component (I(Kr)) of delayed rectifier K+ current, which is important for repolarization of human cardiac myocytes. In this study, we have characterized the single-channel properties of HERG expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Currents were measured in cell-attached patches with an extracellular K concentration of 120 mM. The single HERG channel conductance, determined at test potentials between -50 and -110 mV, was 12.1 +/- 0.6 pS. At positive test potentials (+40 to +80 mV), the probability of channel opening was low and slope conductance was 5.1 +/- 0.6 pS. The mean channel open times at -90 mV were 2.9 +/- 0.5 and 11.8 +/- 1.0 ms, and the mean channel closed times were 0.54 +/- 0.02 and 14.5 +/- 5.3 ms. Single HERG channels were blocked by MK-499, a class III antiarrhythmic agent that blocks I(Kr) in cardiac myocytes. The development of block was more rapid in inside-out patches than in cell-attached patches or in whole cell recordings, indicating that block occurs from the cytoplasmic side of the membrane. The single-channel properties of HERG are similar to I(Kr) channels of isolated cardiac myocytes, which provides further evidence that HERG proteins coassemble to form I(Kr) channels.