In the placental vasculature, where oxygenation may be an important regulator of vascular reactivity, there is a paucity of data on the expression of potassium (K) channels, which are important mediators of vascular smooth muscle tone. We therefore addressed the expression and function of several K channel subtypes in human placentas. The expression of voltage-gated (K v)2.1, KV9.3, large-conductance Ca2+-activated K channel (BKCa), inward-rectified K+ channel (K IR)6.1, and two-pore domain inwardly rectifying potassium channel-related acid-sensitive K channels (TASK)1 in chorionic plate arteries, veins, and placental homogenate was assessed by RT-PCR and Western blot analysis. Functional activity of K channels was assessed pharmacologically in small chorionic plate arteries and veins by wire myography using 4-aminopyridine, iberiotoxin, pinacidil, and anandamide. Experiments were performed at 20, 7, and 2% oxygen to assess the effect of oxygenation on the efficacy of K channel modulators. KV2.1, KV9.3, BK Ca, KIR6.1, and TASK1 channels were all demonstrated to be expressed at the message level. KV2.1, BKCa, K IR6.1, and TASK1 were all demonstrated at the protein level. Pharmacological manipulation of voltage-gated and ATP-sensitive channels produced the most marked modifications in vascular tone, in both arteries and veins. We conclude that K channels play an important role in controlling placental vascular function. Copyright © 2006 the American Physiological Society.