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A recent study on malaria-infected human red blood cells (RBCs) has shown induced ion channel activity in the host cell membrane, but the questions of whether they are host- or parasite-derived and their molecular nature have not been resolved. Here we report a comparison of a malaria-induced anion channel with an endogenous anion channel in Plasmodium falciparum-infected human RBCs. Ion channel activity was measured using the whole-cell, cell-attached and excised inside-out configurations of the patch-clamp method. Parasitised RBCs were cultured in vitro, using co-cultured uninfected RBCs as controls. Unstimulated uninfected RBCs possessed negligible numbers of active anion channels. However, anion channels could be activated in the presence of protein kinase A (PKA) and ATP in the pipette solution or by membrane deformation. These channels displayed linear conductance (~15 pS), were blocked by known anion channel inhibitors and showed the permeability sequence I(-) > Br(-) > Cl(-). In addition, in less than 5 % of excised patches, an outwardly rectifying anion channel (~80 pS, outward conductance) was spontaneously active. The host membrane of malaria-infected RBCs possessed spontaneously active anion channel activity, with identical conductances, pharmacology and selectivity to the linear conductance channel measured in stimulated uninfected RBCs. Furthermore, the channels measured in malaria-infected RBCs were shown to have a low open-state probability (P(o)) at positive potentials, which explains the inward rectification of membrane conductance observed when using the whole-cell configuration. The data are consistent with the presence of two endogenous anion channels in human RBCs, of which one (the linear conductance channel) is up-regulated by the malaria parasite P. falciparum.