In experiments performed at 37 degrees C, Ca2+ reversibly inhibits the Na+-and (Na+ + K+)-ATPase activities and the K+-dependent phosphatase activity of (Na+ + K+)-ATPase. With 3 mM ATP, the Na+-ATPase was less sensitive to CaCl2 than the (Na+ + K+)-ATPase activity. With 0.02 mM ATP, the Na+-ATPase and the (Na+ + K+)-ATPase activities were similarly inhibited by CaCl2. The K0.5 for Ca2+ as (Na+ + K+)-ATPase inhibitor depended on the total MgCl2 and ATP concentrations. This Ca2+ inhibition could be a consequence of Ca2+-Mg2+ competition, Ca . ATP-Mg . ATP competition or a combination of both mechanisms. In the presence of Na+ and Mg2+, Ca2+ inhibited the K+-dependent dephosphorylation of the phosphoenzyme formed from ATP, had no effect on the dephosphorylation in the absence of K+ and inhibited the rephosphorylation of the enzyme. In addition, the steady-state levels of phosphoenzyme were reduced in the presence both of NaCl and of NaCl plus KCl. With 3 mM ATP, Ca2+ alone sustained no more than 2% of the (Na+ + K+)-ATPase activity and about 23% of the Na+-ATPase activity observed with Mg2+ and no Ca2+. With 0.003 mM ATP, Ca2+ was able to maintain about 40% of the (Na+ + K+)-ATPase activity and 27% of the Na+-ATPase activity seen in the presence of Mg2+ alone. However, the E2(K)-E1K conformational change did not seem to be affected. Ca2+ inhibition of the K+-dependent rho-nitrophenylphosphatase activity of the (Na+ + K+)-ATPase followed competition kinetics between Ca2+ and Mg2+. In the presence of 10 mM NaCl and 0.75 mM KCl, the fractional inhibition of the K+-dependent rho-nitrophenylphosphatase activity as a function of Ca2+ concentration was the same with and without ATP, suggesting that Ca2+ indeed plays the important role in this process. In the absence of Mg2+, Ca2+ was unable to sustain any detectable ouabain-sensitive phosphatase activity, either with rho-nitrophenylphosphate or with acetyl phosphate as substrate.