Under normal physiological conditions, Slo2.1K(+) channels are in a closed state unless activated by an elevation in [Na(+)]i. Fenamates such as niflumic acid also activate Slo2.1. Previous studies suggest that activation of Slo2.1 channels is mediated by a conformational change in the selectivity filter, and not a widening of the aperture formed by the S6 segment bundle crossing as occurs in voltage-gated K(+) channels. It is unclear how binding of Na(+) or fenamates is allosterically linked to opening of the presumed selectivity filter activation gate in Slo2.1. Here we examined the role of the S5 transmembrane segment in the activation of Slo2.1. Channels were heterologously expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes and whole cell currents measured with the voltage-clamp technique. Ala substitution of five residues located on a single face of the S5 α-helical segment induced constitutive channel activity. Leu-209, predicted to face towards Phe-240 in the pore helix was investigated by further mutagenesis. Mutation of Leu-209 to Glu or Gln induced maximal channel activation as did the combined mutation to Ala of all three hydrophobic S5 residues predicted to be adjacent to Phe-240. Together these results suggest that hydrophobic interactions between residues in S5 and the C-terminal end of the pore helix stabilize Slo2.1 channels in a closed state.