Pyrethroid insecticides may be classified into two groups: type I pyrethroids lack a cyano group in the alpha-position, whereas type II pyrethroids have a cyano group. Both types prolong the sodium channel current thereby causing hyperexcitability, yet details of modulation of current kinetics remain largely to be seen. The mechanism of pyrethroid modulation of sodium currents was studied by the whole-cell patch-clamp technique with rat dorsal root ganglion neurons. Both deltamethrin (type II) and tetramethrin (type I) acted on both tetrodotoxin-sensitive and tetrodotoxin-resistant channels in a qualitatively similar manner and some quantitative differences were derived from different kinetics. During repetitive stimulation in the presence of deltamethrin, leak current increased due to accumulation of prolonged tail currents, explaining the apparent use-dependent modification. For tetramethrin-modified channels, such accumulation was much less because of faster kinetics. Slowing of the kinetics of sodium channel activation by deltamethrin was revealed even after the fast inactivation had been removed by papain. The kinetics of deltamethrin-modified sodium channels was fitted better by the equation that contained two activation components than that with one component. Deltamethrin caused a large shift of the conductance-voltage curve in the direction of hyperpolarization. Cell-attached patch-clamp experiments revealed that deltamethrin had much smaller mobility in the cell membrane than tetramethrin. It was concluded that the apparent use dependence of deltamethrin modification of sodium channels was due primarily to the accumulation of prolonged tail currents during repetitive stimulation and that the sodium channel activation mechanism is the major target of pyrethroids.