In neurosecretory cells, intracellular Ca2+ ([Ca2+]i) not only acts as the trigger for secretion but also regulates earlier steps in the secretory pathway. Here, a novel approach was developed to control [Ca2+]i over a broad concentration range, which allowed the quantification of three distinct actions of [Ca2+]i on large dense-core vesicle (LDCV) fusion in chromaffin cells from mouse adrenal slices. Basal [Ca2+]i regulated the transfer of vesicles toward a slowly releasable state, whereas further maturation to the readily releasable state was Ca2+ independent. [Ca2+]i levels above 3 microM triggered exocytosis of all readily and slowly releasable vesicles in two parallel, kinetically distinct fusion reactions. In a molecular context, these results suggest that Ca2+ acts both before and after trans-SNARE complex formation to regulate fusion competence and fusion kinetics of LDCVs.