The effects of expression of the Drosophila melanogaster Trpl protein, which is thought to encode a putative Ca2+ channel [Phillips, Bull and Kelly (1992) Neuron 8, 631-642], on divalent cation inflow in Xenopus laevis oocytes were investigated. The addition of extracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]o) to oocytes injected with trpl cRNA and to mock-injected controls, both loaded with the fluorescent Ca2+ indicator fluo-3, induced a rapid initial and a slower sustained rate of increase in fluorescence, which were designated the initial and sustained rates of Ca2+ inflow respectively. Compared with mock-injected oocytes, trpl-cRNA-injected oocytes exhibited a higher resting cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i), and higher initial and sustained rates of Ca2+ inflow in the basal (no agonist) states. The basal rate of Ca2+ inflow in trpl-cRNA-injected oocytes increased with (1) an increase in the time elapsed between injection of trpl cRNA and the measurement of Ca2+ inflow, (2) an increase in the amount of trpl cRNA injected and (3) an increase in [Ca2+]o. Gd3+ inhibited the trpl cRNA-induced basal rate of Ca2+ inflow, with a concentration of approx. 5 μM Gd3+ giving half-maximal inhibition. Expression of trpl cRNA also caused an increase in the basal rate of Mn2+ inflow. The increases in resting [Ca2+]i and in the basal rate of Ca2+ inflow induced by expression of trpl cRNA were inhibited by the calmodulin inhibitors W13, calmodazolium and peptide (281-309) of (Ca2+ and calmodulin)-dependent protein kinase II. A low concentration of exogenous calmodulin (introduced by microinjection) activated, and a higher concentration inhibited, the trpl cRNA-induced increase in basal rate of Ca2+ inflow. The action of the high concentration of exogenous calmodulin was reversed by W13 and calmodazolium. When rates of Ca2+ inflow in trpl-cRNA-injected oocytes were compared with those in mock-injected oocytes, the guanosine 5′-[β-thio]diphosphate-stimulated rate was greater, the onset of thapsigargin-stimulated initial rate somewhat delayed and the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate-stimulated initial rate markedly inhibited. It is concluded that (1) the divalent cation channel activity of the Drosophila Trpl protein can be detected in Xenopus oocytes; (2) in the environment of the Xenopus oocyte the Trpl channel admits some Mn2+ as well as Ca2+, is activated by cytoplasmic free Ca2+ (through endogenous calmodulin) and by a trimeric GTP-binding regulatory protein, but does not appear to be activated by depletion of Ca2+ in the endoplasmic reticulum; and (3) expression of the Trpl protein inhibits the process by which the release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores activates endogenous store-activated Ca2+ channels.