Human erythrocytes infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum have increased permeabilities to many solutes. The plasmodial surface anion channel (PSAC) may mediate these changes. Despite good understanding of the biochemical and biophysical properties, the genetic basis of PSAC activity remains unknown. Functional polymorphisms in laboratory isolates and two mutants generated by in vitro selection implicate a parasite-encoded channel, although parasite-induced modifications of endogenous channels have not been formally excluded. Here, we identified stable differences in furosemide efficacy against PSAC activity induced by HB3 and 3D7A parasites. This difference was apparent in both single PSAC patch-clamp recordings and in sorbitol-mediated osmotic lysis measurements, confirming that Cl- and sorbitol are transported by a single-channel type. Examination of 19 progeny from a genetic cross between HB3 and 3D7A revealed complex inheritance with some cloned progeny exhibiting furosemide affinities outside the range of parental values. Isolates generated by selfing of the 3D7A clone also exhibited altered furosemide affinities, implicating changes in one or more alleles during meiosis or passage through a primate host. PSAC may be encoded by multiple parasite genes (e.g. a multi-gene family or multiple genes that encode distinct channel subunits) or a single polymorphic gene under strong selective pressure.