Venom from the ectoparasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis induces cellular injury that appears to involve the release of intracellular calcium stores via the activation of phospholipase C, and culminates in oncotic death. A linkage between release of intracellular Ca2+ and oncosis has not been clearly established and was the focus of this study. When BTI-TN-5B1-4 cells were treated with suramin, an uncoupler of G-proteins, venom-induced swelling and oncotic death were inhibited in a dose-dependent manner for at least 24 h. Suramin also blocked increases in free cytosolic [Ca2+], arguing that venom induces calcium mobilization through G-protein signaling pathways. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) was predicted to be the source of intracellular calcium release, but labeling with the fluorescent probe ER-tracker revealed no indication of organelle swelling or loss of membrane integrity as would be expected if the Ca(2+)-ATPase pump was disabled by crude venom. Incubation of cell monolayers with calmodulin or nitrendipine, modulators of ER calcium release channels, neither attenuated nor augmented the effects of wasp venom. These results suggest that wasp venom stimulates calcium release from ER compartments distinct from RyRs, L-type Ca2+ channels, and the Ca(2+)-ATPase pump, or calcium is released from some other intracellular store. A reduction of mitochondrial membrane potential delta psi(m) appeared to precede a rise in cytosolic free Ca2+ as evidenced by fluorescent microscopy using the calcium-sensitive probe fluo-4 AM. This argues that the initial insult to the cell resulting from venom elicits a rapid loss of (delta psi(m)), followed by unregulated calcium efflux from mitochondria into the cytosol. Mobilization of calcium in this fashion could stimulate cAMP formation, and subsequently promote calcium release from NAADP-sensitive stores.