We have tested the hypothesis that the cystic fibrosis (CF) gene product, called the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), mediates anion transport in normal human sweat duct cells. Sweat duct cells in primary culture were treated with oligodeoxynucleotides that were antisense to the CFTR gene transcript in order to block the expression of the wild-type CFTR. Anion transport in CFTR transcript antisense-treated cells was then assessed with a halide-specific dye, 6-methoxy-N-(3-sulfopropryl)quinolinium, and fluorescent digital imaging microscopy to monitor halide influx and efflux from single sweat duct cells. Antisense oligodeoxynucleotide treatment (3.9 or 1.3 μM) for 24 hr virtually abolished Cl- transport in sweat duct cells compared with untreated cells or control cells treated with sense oligodeoxynucleotides. Br- uptake into sweat duct cells was also blocked after a 24-hr CFTR transcript antisense treatment, but not after treatment for only 4 hr. Lower concentrations of antisense oligodeoxynucleotides were less effective at inhibiting Cl- transport. These results indicate that oligodeoxynucleotides that are antisense to CFTR transcript inhibit sweat duct Cl- permeability in both a time-dependent and dose-dependent manner. This approach provides evidence that inhibition of the expression of the wild-type CFTR gene in a normal, untransfected epithelial cell results in an inhibition of Cl- permeability.