We previously demonstrated that CALNUC, a Ca2+-binding protein with two EF-hands, is the major Ca2+-binding protein in the Golgi by 45Ca2+ overlay (Lin, P., H. Le-Niculescu, R. Hofmeister, J.M. McCaffery, M. Jin, H. Henneman, T. McQuistan, L. De Vries, and M. Farquhar. 1998. J. Cell Biol. 141:1515-1527). In this study we investigated CALNUC's properties and the Golgi Ca2+ storage pool in vivo. CALNUC was found to be a highly abundant Golgi protein (3.8 microg CALNUC/mg Golgi protein, 2.5 x 10(5) CALNUC molecules/NRK cell) and to have a single high affinity, low capacity Ca2+-binding site (Kd = 6.6 microM, binding capacity = 1.1 micromol Ca2+/micromol CALNUC). 45Ca2+ storage was increased by 2.5- and 3-fold, respectively, in HeLa cells transiently overexpressing CALNUC-GFP and in EcR-CHO cells stably overexpressing CALNUC. Deletion of the first EF-hand alpha helix from CALNUC completely abolished its Ca2+-binding capability. CALNUC was correctly targeted to the Golgi in transfected cells as it colocalized and cosedimented with the Golgi marker, alpha-mannosidase II (Man II). Approximately 70% of the 45Ca2+ taken up by HeLa and CHO cells overexpressing CALNUC was released by treatment with thapsigargin, a sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) (Ca2+ pump) blocker. Stimulation of transfected cells with the agonist ATP or IP3 alone (permeabilized cells) also resulted in a significant increase in Ca2+ release from Golgi stores. By immunofluorescence, the IP3 receptor type 1 (IP3R-1) was distributed over the endoplasmic reticulum and codistributed with CALNUC in the Golgi. These results provide direct evidence that CALNUC binds Ca2+ in vivo and together with SERCA and IP3R is involved in establishment of the agonist-mobilizable Golgi Ca2+ store.