Ca2+ and Mg2+ caused a concentration-dependent activation of ATP hydrolysis by mitochondrial membranes of Hymenolepis diminuta, a rat intestinal cestode. Ca2+ was the more potent, but Mg2+ the more effective. The Lineweaver-Burk plot yielded Km and Vmax values of 1.15 nM and 217.4 nmol Pi min-1 mg-1 protein for Ca(2+)-dependent activity, and 1.86 mM and 333.3 nmol Pi min-1 mg-1 protein for Mg(2+)-dependent activity, respectively. Neither Na+ nor K+, nor a combination of the two cations, induced the hydrolysis of ATP. Ouabain, a specific inhibitor of Na+/K+ ATPase, did not affect the rate of ATP hydrolysis induced by Mg2+ alone or in combination with Na+ or K+. The membrane-bound enzyme was not affected by neuraminidase and concanavalin A. Ca2+ and Mg2+ also induced appreciable hydrolysis of other nucleoside triphosphates by the membranes. Some known anthelmintics, e.g. niclosamide, praziquantel and mebendazole, had no effect on ATPase activities. In addition to other compounds including respiratory inhibitors and uncouplers of phosphorylation, ruthenium red, which blocks Ca2+ influx into the cestode mitochondria, had no influence on the rate of ATP hydrolysis induced by the cations. Triton X-100 was found most suitable for solubilization of both activities. The differences between cestode ATPase and its mammalian counterpart have been discussed.