Calcium ion (Ca++) serves an important role as an activation messenger; it initiates or regulates key cellular processes including contraction in the heart and vascular smooth muscle. Ca++ acts as both an electrical and a chemical signal. Upon entering the cell, the positively charged Ca++ carries an inward (depolarizing) current that contributes to pacemaker activity in the sinoatrial node and to atrioventricular conduction. Ca++ also binds to anionic surfaces of cell membranes and to anionic groups of both extracellular and intracellular proteins. The intracellular calcium-binding proteins include troponin and calmodulin, which when bound to Ca++ initiate contraction in cardiac and smooth muscles, respectively. Calcium channel blockers inhibit the entry of calcium into the cell, and thus prevent calcium from gaining access to the high-affinity, intracellular calcium-binding proteins. Verapamil and diltiazem decrease myocardial contractility and inhibit smooth muscle tone, while the dihydropyridines are mainly vasodilators. All of these drugs can play an important role in the treatment of hypertension.