BACKGROUND Amniotic fluid contains a significant level of urinary trypsin inhibitor (UTI). Previously, we reported that UTI inhibits calcium influx of myometrium and it is effective in preventing uterine contraction. This study examined the effects of UTI upon potassium channels, which is important for membrane excitability. METHODS Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings were performed in fibroblasts derived from human fetal skin. Potassium currents were recorded and the effects of exogenous UTI and/or cadmium determined. RESULTS Tetraethylammonium sensitive potassium currents were elicited by step or ramp stimulations at depolarized membrane potentials (over +30 mV). Administration of 1 micro M UTI significantly increased these potassium currents by 16.9%. When calcium channels were blocked by the administration of cadmium, UTI increased the rest of the potassium currents by 4.8%. This indicates that UTI increased calcium-dependent potassium currents by 94.8% but only increased voltage-dependent potassium currents by 4.8%. CONCLUSIONS Urinary trypsin inhibitor is a physiological substance of fetal origin that modulates calcium-dependent and voltage-dependent potassium channels. These data suggest that UTI is capable of regulating the membrane properties of the fetal and myometrial cells in contact with amniotic fluid.