Electric fish of the genus Sternopygus produce a sinusoidal electric organ discharge (EOD) of low frequencies in males, high frequencies in females, and overlapping and intermediate frequencies in juveniles. Correspondingly, the cells of the electric organ, the electrocytes, generate action potentials which are of long duration in mature males, short duration in females, and intermediate duration in immatures. The androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) lowers EOD frequency and increases electrocyte action potential duration. We examined the electrocytes under voltage clamp to determine whether variations in the kinetic properties of the Na+ current might underlie these phenomena. We found that the fast inactivation time constants of the peak Na+ current (0 mV) ranged from 0.5 to 4.7 msec and varied systematically with EOD frequency and action potential duration. Voltage dependence of steady- state inactivation also varied with EOD frequency with the midpoint of inactivation being more positive in fish with low EOD frequencies. There was no correlation between the voltage at which the Na+ current activates, voltage at peak current, reversal potential, rate of recovery from inactivation, or TTX sensitivity and EOD frequency. We tested whether DHT influenced Na+ current inactivation by recording from electrocytes before and after juvenile fish of both sexes were implanted with a DHT-containing or empty capsule. We found that inactivation time constants were significantly slower in DHT implanted, but not control, fish. This is the first observation of functionally relevant individual variation in the kinetics of a Na+ current and the first demonstration that the kinetics of a Na+ current may be modulated by an androgen.