The ATP-activated P2X7 receptor channel is involved in immune function and inflammatory pain and represents an important drug target. Here we describe a new P2X7 splice variant (P2X7(k)), containing an alternative intracellular N terminus and first transmembrane domain encoded by a novel exon 1 in the rodent P2rx7 gene. Whole cell patch clamp recordings of the rat isoform expressed in HEK293 cells revealed an 8-fold higher sensitivity to the agonist Bz-ATP and much slower deactivation kinetics when compared with the P2X7(a) receptor. Permeability measurements in Xenopus oocytes show a high permeability for N-methyl-D-glucamine immediately upon activation, suggesting that the P2X7(k) channel is constitutively dilated upon opening. The rates of agonist-induced dye uptake and membrane blebbing in HEK cells were also increased. PCR analyses and biochemical analysis by SDS-PAGE and BN-PAGE indicate that the P2X7(k) variant escapes gene deletion in one of the available P2X7-/- mice strains and is strongly expressed in the spleen. Taken together, we describe a novel P2X7 isoform with distinct functional properties that contributes to the diversity of P2X7 receptor signaling. Its presence in one of the P2X7-/- strains has important implications for our understanding of the role of this receptor in health and disease.