1. Using whole-cell and cell-attached recording configurations, the role of phosphorylation in leptin activation of ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channels was examined in the rat CRI-G1 insulinoma cell line. 2. Whole-cell current clamp recordings demonstrated that, following dialysis with the non-hydrolysable ATP analogue 5'-adenylylimidodiphosphate (AMP-PNP; 3-5 mM), the leptin-induced hyperpolarization and increase in K+ conductance were completely inhibited. 3. Under current clamp conditions, application of the broad-spectrum protein kinase inhibitor H-7 (10 µM) had no effect on the resting membrane potential or slope conductance of CRI-G1 insulinoma cells and did not occlude the actions of leptin. 4. Application of the tyrosine kinase inhibitors genistein (10 µM), tyrphostin B42 (10 µM) and herbimycin A (500 nM) all resulted in activation of KATP channels. In cell-attached recordings, the presence of tyrphostin B42 (10 microM) in the pipette solution activated tolbutamide-sensitive KATP channels in CRI-G1 cells. In contrast, the inactive analogues of genistein and tyrphostin B42 were without effect. 5. The serine/threonine-specific protein phosphatase inhibitors okadaic acid (50 nM) and cyclosporin A (1 µM) did not prevent or reverse leptin activation of KATP channels. In contrast, whole-cell dialysis with the tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor orthovanadate (500 µM) prevented the actions of both leptin and tyrphostin B42. 6. In conclusion, leptin activation of KATP channels appears to require inhibition of tyrosine kinases and subsequent dephosphorylation. This process is likely to occur prior to activation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) as wortmannin prevented activation of KATP channels by tyrphostin B42.