Dihydropyridines (DHPs) generally have little effect on whole-cell calcium currents of neurons, even at concentrations far higher than those effective on muscle. Either neuronal calcium currents are much less sensitive to DHPs, or only a small proportion of the current is DHP-sensitive. We find that DHP agonists and antagonists act at low concentration on calcium currents in frog sympathetic neurons but that the effects are small even at optimal concentrations. The half-maximal dose (EC50) of the agonist Bay K 8644 is approximately 50 nM, and the effect of Bay K 8644 is blocked by 50% at approximately 300 nM nifedipine, from a holding potential of -80 mV. Nifedipine is more effective from a holding potential of -50 mV. These results suggest the presence of an L-type calcium current, with DHP sensitivity similar to L-currents in cardiac muscle. The predominant (greater than 90%) calcium current in frog sympathetic neurons is a DHP-resistant N-type current. However, high concentrations of DHPs (10 microM) partially block N-type calcium current, as well as voltage-dependent sodium and potassium currents.