The acid-sensitive ion channel 1 (ASIC1α or BNaC2a) is the most abundant of all mammalian proton-gated ion channels and the one that has the broadest distribution in the nervous system. Hallmarks of ASIC1α are gating by external protons and rapid desensitization. In sensory neurons ASIC1 may constitute a nociceptor for pain induced by local acidification, whereas in central neurons it may modulate synaptic activity. To gain insight into the functional roles of ASIC1, we cloned and examined the properties of the evolutionarily distant species toadfish (Opsanus tau), ∼420-million year divergent from mammals. Analysis of the protein sequence from fish ASIC1 revealed 76% amino acid identity with the rat orthologue. The regions of highest conservation are the second transmembrane domain and the ectodomain, whereas the amino and carboxyl termini and first transmembrane domain are poorly conserved. At the functional level, fish ASIC1 is gated by external protons with a half-maximal activation at pHo 5.6 and a half-maximal inactivation at pHo 7.30. The fish differs from the rat channel on having a 25-fold faster rate of desensitization. Functional studies of chimeras made from rat and fish ASIC1 indicate that the extracellular domain specifically, a cluster of three residues, confers the faster desensitization rate to the fish ASIC1.