Based on electrophysiological studies, Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels and voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels appear to be located in close proximity in neurons. Such colocalization would ensure selective and rapid activation of K(+) channels by local increases in the cytosolic calcium concentration. The nature of the apparent coupling is not known. In the present study we report a direct coassembly of big conductance Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels (BK) and L-type voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels in rat brain. Saturation immunoprecipitation studies were performed on membranes labeled for BK channels and precipitated with antibodies against alpha(1C) and alpha(1D) L-type Ca(2+) channels. To confirm the specificity of the interaction, precipitation experiments were carried out also in reverse order. Also, additive precipitation was performed because alpha(1C) and alpha(1D) L-type Ca(2+) channels always refer to separate ion channel complexes. Finally, immunochemical studies showed a distinct but overlapping expression pattern of the two types of ion channels investigated. BK and L-type Ca(2+) channels were colocalized in various compartments throughout the rat brain. Taken together, these results demonstrate a direct coassembly of BK channels and L-type Ca(2+) channels in certain areas of the brain.