Calcium ions flow into cells through several distinct classes of voltage-dependent calcium-selective channels. Such fluxes play important roles in electrical signaling at the cell membrane and in chemical signaling within cells. Further information about calcium channels was obtained by injecting RNA isolated from rat brain, heart and skeletal muscle into Xenopus oocytes. Macroscopic currents through voltage-operated calcium channels were resolved when the endogenous calcium-dependent chloride current was blocked by replacing external calcium with barium and chloride with methanesulfonate. The resulting barium current was insensitive to tetrodotoxin but was completely blocked by cadmium or cobalt. With both heart and brain RNA at least two distinct types of calcium ion conductance were found, distinguishable by their time course and inactivation properties. In oocytes injected with heart RNA, the slowly inactivating component was selectively blocked by the calcium-channel antagonist nifedipine. Barium ion currents induced by heart RNA were modulated by isoproterenol, cyclic adenosine monophosphate, and acetylcholine.