We compared the effect on mitochondrial NAD(P)H formation of calcium release from intracellular stores with that of calcium influx from the extracellular space. Simultaneous measurements of cytoplasmic free calcium ion concentration and mitochondrial NAD(P)H were performed on fura-PE3-loaded single rat adrenal glomerulosa cells. The effects of equipotent stimuli in terms of the evoked Ca2+ response were compared. Angiotensin II (AII; 1 nM) induced a higher amplitude NAD(P)H response than K+ (5.6-7.6 mM). Vasopressin (1 μM) also induced a greater initial NAD(P)H formation than K+, although the Ca2+ signal evoked by the two agonists had similar amplitude. To examine the effect of Ca2+ release from internal stores we applied AII in Ca2+-free medium. We compared the effect on NAD(P)H formation of Ca2+ release with Ca2+ influx induced by K+, and with capacitative Ca2+ influx induced by AII. NAD(P)H formation in response to Ca2+ release was greater than that induced by Ca2+ influx, irrespective of whether induced by K+ or AII. Our results indicate that Ca2+ presumably released in the vicinity of mitochondria, activates mitochondrial dehydrogenases more efficiently than Ca2+ entering through the plasma membrane. These data confirm the biological significance of previous observations showing that Ca2+ released from inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate-sensitive internal stores increases mitochondrial matrix [Ca2+] to a greater extent than extracellular Ca2+.