A role for calcium/calcium-binding proteins in a mechanism of signaling elicitor-inducible phytoalexin biosynthesis was investigated. Two classes of calcium/calmodulin antagonists, phenothiazines and naphthalenesulfonamides, inhibited sesquiterpene phytoalexin accumulation in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) cell-suspension cultures when added 1 h before elicitor. The antagonists also inhibited the induction of sesquiterpene cyclase enzyme activity, a key regulatory enzyme for sesquiterpene biosynthesis. The antagonists suppressed the induction of sesquiterpene cyclase only if added before or simultaneously with elicitor. Additionally, the antagonists inhibited (a) accumulation of the cyclase protein as measured in immunoblots; (b) the in vivo synthesis rate of the cyclase protein, measured as the incorporation of [35S]methionine into immunoprecipitable cyclase protein; and (c) the cyclase mRNA translational activity, measured as the incorporation of [35S]methionine into immunoprecipitable cyclase protein synthesized by in vitro translation of RNA isolated from antagonist-treated, elicitor-induced cells. In contrast, elicitor-inducible phenylalanine ammonia lyase enzyme activity, the level of the enzyme protein, the in vivo synthesis rate, and the mRNA translational activity were not affected by any of the antagonist treatments. Uptake and incorporation of [35S]methionine into total cellular proteins and total in vitro translation products were also not indiscriminately altered by the antagonist treatments. The current results suggest that calcium and/or calmodulin-like proteins may be elements of a signal transduction pathway mediating elicitor-induced accumulation of phytoalexins in tobacco.