A number of functionally important actions of proteins are mediated by short, intrinsically disordered peptide segments, but the molecular interactions that allow disordered domains to mediate their effects remain a topic of active investigation. Many K+ channel proteins, after initial channel opening, show a time-dependent reduction in current flux, termed inactivation', which involves movement of mobile cytosolic peptide segments (approximately 20-30 residues) into a position that physically occludes ion permeation. Peptide segments that produce inactivation show little amino-acid identity and tolerate appreciable mutational substitutions without disrupting the inactivation process. Solution nuclear magnetic resonance of several isolated inactivation domains reveals substantial conformational heterogeneity with only minimal tendency to ordered structures. Channel inactivation mechanisms may therefore help us to decipher how intrinsically disordered regions mediate functional effects. Whereas many aspects of inactivation of voltage-dependent K+ channels (Kv) can be described by a simple one-step occlusion mechanism, inactivation of the voltage-dependent large-conductance Ca2+-gated K+ (BK) channel mediated by peptide segments of auxiliary β-subunits involves two distinguishable kinetic steps. Here we show that two-step inactivation mediated by an intrinsically disordered BK β-subunit peptide involves a stereospecific binding interaction that precedes blockade. In contrast, blocking mediated by a Shaker Kv inactivation peptide is consistent with direct, simple occlusion by a hydrophobic segment without substantial steric requirement. The results indicate that two distinct types of molecular interaction between disordered peptide segments and their binding sites produce qualitatively similar functions.