Sustained Ca2+ influx follows discharge of intracellularly stored Ca2+ in a variety of cell types previously equilibrated in Ca(2+)-free media, including cultured human mesangial cells. This Ca2+ influx pathway has been referred to as capacitative Ca2+ entry or Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ influx (iCRAC). This study investigated two cellular mechanisms potentially controlling iCRAC in human mesangial cells, protein kinase C (PKC), a key signalling kinase activated by vasoconstrictors that release Ca2+ from internal stores, and calmodulin, a Ca(2+)-binding protein that may couple Ca2+ release to the putative channel(s). The PKC activator phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) dose-dependently inhibited both Ca2+ influx in resting cells and iCRAC, assessed by microfluorometry in fura-2-loaded monolayers, when added before or after 1 uM angiotensin II (AngII) (Ca2+ influx at 1 mM (Ca2+)e +278 +/- 56%/+80 +/- 8%, at 10 mM + 473 +/- 59%/+250 +/- 24% (Ca2+)e, -/+ PMA, respectively, P < 0.05). PMA did not affect 5 uM ionomycin-induced iCRAC, possibly because it downregulated Ca2+ release by AngII but not by ionomycin, suggesting a key role of released Ca2+ in triggering subsequent Ca2+ influx. This was confirmed by buffering the (Ca2+)i elevation induced by AngII with intracellularly trapped 1,2-bis-(0-Aminophenoxy)-ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (BAPTA), which abolished any subsequent iCRAC. Moreover, the calmodulin inhibitors calmidazolium (10 uM), trifluoperazine (0.1 mM), or W-7 (0.1 mM) significantly inhibited AngII- or ionomycin-activated iCRAC (+106 +/- 38/229 +/- 53, +58 +/- 9/195 +/- 29, +161 +/- 38/180 +/- 40% at 1/10 mM (Ca2+)e, all P < 0.05), but did not affect basal Ca2+ entry, consistent with a direct role of cytoplasmic Ca2+ in the regulation of ion gating. These results indicate that iCRAC is under the control of both PKC and calmodulin, and that the site of regulation is distal to the emptying of Ca2+ stores. iCRAC may represent a key mechanism for the control of Ca(2+)-regulated mesangial functions.