1-[N,O-Bis(5-isoquinolinesulfonyl)-N-met hyl-L-tyrosyl]-4- phenylpiperazine (KN-62) and N-[1-[N-methyl-p-(5 isoquinolinesulfonyl)benzyl]-2-(4 phenylpiperazine)ethyl]-5-isoquino- linesulfonamide (KN-04) potently inhibit the human lymphocyte P2Z receptor, an ATP-gated cation channel [Br J Pharmacol 120:1483-1490 (1997)]. Although the molecular identity of the lymphocyte P2Z receptor has not been established, it shares many functional characteristics with the cloned P2X7 nucleotide receptor. We have tested whether these isoquinolines inhibit P2X receptor function in human embryonic kidney 293 cells that stably express the human or rat recombinant P2X7 receptors. ATP activation of cation currents and uptake of the organic dye ethidium were potently inhibited by KN-62 and KN-04 in human embryonic kidney cells expressing the human P2X7R but not the rat P2X7R, even though these species homologues share 80% amino acid identity. Introduction of the first 335 amino acids of the human P2X7R sequence conferred KN-62 sensitivity to the rat P2X7R; this suggests that isoquinolines interact with residues in the amino-terminal half (containing the large extracellular loop) of the human P2X7R. KN-62 and KN-04 also potently inhibited ATP-gated Ca2+ influx and ethidium uptake in several leukocyte cell lines (THP-1, BAC1.2f5, and BW5147) that natively express the human or murine P2X7R mRNA. The ability of isoquinoline sulfonamides to potently inhibit human and murine P2X7R signaling will be a useful tool for identifying P2Z/P2X7 functional responses in other cell types. The substantial differences in pharmacological sensitivity between rat and human P2X7 may also indicate structural domains important in channel/pore activation.