In plant cells, Ca(2+) is required for both structural and biophysical roles. In addition, changes in cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](cyt)) orchestrate responses to developmental and environmental signals. In many instances, [Ca(2+)](cyt) is increased by Ca(2+) influx across the plasma membrane through ion channels. Although the electrophysiological and biochemical characteristics of Ca(2+)-permeable channels in the plasma membrane of plant cells are well known, genes encoding putative Ca(2+)-permeable channels have only recently been identified. By comparing the tissue expression patterns and electrophysiology of Ca(2+)-permeable channels in the plasma membrane of root cells with those of genes encoding candidate plasma membrane Ca(2+) channels, the genetic counterparts of specific Ca(2+)-permeable channels can be deduced. Sequence homologies and the physiology of transgenic antisense plants suggest that the Arabidopsis AtTPC1 gene encodes a depolarisation-activated Ca(2+) channel. Members of the annexin gene family are likely to encode hyperpolarisation-activated Ca(2+) channels, based on their corresponding occurrence in secretory or elongating root cells, their inhibition by La(3+) and nifedipine, and their increased activity as [Ca(2+)](cyt) is raised. Based on their electrophysiology and tissue expression patterns, AtSKOR encodes a depolarisation-activated outward-rectifying (Ca(2+)-permeable) K(+) channel (KORC) in stelar cells and AtGORK is likely to encode a KORC in the plasma membrane of other Arabidopsis root cells. Two candidate gene families, of cyclic-nucleotide gated channels (CNGC) and ionotropic glutamate receptor (GLR) homologues, are proposed as the genetic correlates of voltage-independent cation (VIC) channels.