We have shown previously that ATP inhibits transmitter release at the neuromuscular junction through the action on metabotropic P2Y receptors coupled to specific second messenger cascades. In the present study we recorded K+ or Ca2+ currents in motor nerve endings or blocked K+ or Ca2+ channels in order to explore the nature of downstream presynaptic effectors. Endplate currents were presynaptically depressed by ATP. Blockers of Ca2+-activated K+-channels, such as iberiotoxin, apamin or tetraethylammonium, did not change the depressant action of ATP. By contrast, K+ channel blocker 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) and raised extracellular Ca2+ attenuated the effect of ATP. However, these effects of 4-AP and high Ca2+ were reversed by Mg2+, suggesting Ca2+-dependence of the ATP action. Ba2+ promoted the depressant action of ATP as did glibenclamide, a blocker of ATP-sensitive K+ channels, or mild depolarization produced by 7.5 mm K+. None of the K+ channel blockers affected the depressant action of adenosine. Focal recording revealed that neither ATP nor adenosine affected the fast K+ currents of the motor nerve endings. However, unlike adenosine, ATP or UTP, an agonist of P2Y receptors, reversibly reduced the presynaptic Ca2+-current. This effect was abolished by suramin, an antagonist of P2 receptors. Depressant effect of ATP on the endplate and Ca2+-currents was mimicked by arachidonate, which precluded the action of ATP. ATP reduced acetylcholine release triggered by ionomycin or sucrose, suggesting inhibition of release machinery. Thus, the presynaptic depressant action of ATP is mediated by inhibition of Ca2+ channels and by mechanism acting downstream of Ca2+ entry.