The diversity of Ca2+ channel types in rat cerebellar granule neurons was investigated with whole-cell recordings (5 mM external Ba2+). Contributions of five different high-voltage-activated Ca2+ channel current components were distinguished pharmacologically. Nimodipine- sensitive L-type current and omega-CTx-GVIA-sensitive N-type current contributed 15 and 20% of the total current, respectively. The bulk of the remaining current (46%) was inhibited by omega-Aga-IVA. The current blocked by this toxin was further subdivided into two components, P- type and Q-type, on the basis of differences in their inactivation kinetics and sensitivity to omega-Aga-IVA. P-Type current was noninactivating during 0.1 sec depolarizations, half-blocked at about 1- 3 nM omega-Aga-IVA, and contributed approximately 11% of the total current; Q-type current was prominently inactivating, half-blocked at approximately 90 nM omega-Aga-IVA, and comprised 35% of the total current. Both P- and Q-type currents were potently inhibited by the Conus magus toxin omega-CTx-MVIIC. A current component resistant to all of the aforementioned blockers (R-type) displayed more rapid inactivation than the other components and constituted 19% of the total current. The Q-type current, the largest of the current components in the granule neurons, resembles currents that can be generated in Xenopus oocytes by expression of cloned alpha 1A subunits.