Phosphorylation by protein kinase C of the "a" and "b" variants of plasma membrane Ca2+ pump isoforms 2 and 3 was studied. Full-length versions of these isoforms were assembled and expressed in COS cells. Whereas the "a" forms were phosphorylated easily with PKC, isoform 2b was phosphorylated only a little, and isoform 3b was not phosphorylated at all. Phosphorylation of isoforms 2a and 3a did not affect their basal activity, but prevented the stimulation of their activity by calmodulin and their binding to calmodulin-Sepharose. This indicated that phosphorylation prevented activation of these isoforms by preventing calmodulin binding. Based on these results, phosphorylation of the pump with PKC would be expected to increase free intracellular Ca2+ levels in those cells where isoforms 2a and 3a are expressed.