With the use of the patch-clamp technique, physiological mechanisms of Na+ channel regulation involving submembranous actin rearrangements were examined in human myeloid leukemia K562 cells. We found that the actin-severing protein gelsolin applied to cytoplasmic surface of membrane fragments at a high level of [Ca2+]i (1 microM) increased drastically the activity of Na-selective channels of 12 pS unitary conductance. In the experiments on intact cells, the elevation of [Ca2+]i using the ionophore 4Br-A23187 also resulted in Na+ channel activation. Addition of actin to the cytoplasmic surface of membrane patches reduced this activity to background level, likely due to actin polymerization. Our data imply that Ca-dependent modulations of the actin cytoskeleton may represent one of the general mechanisms of channel regulation and cell signalling.