Functional large-conductance Ca(2+)- and voltage-activated K(+) (BK) channels can be assembled from four alpha subunits (Slo1) alone, or together with four auxiliary beta1 subunits to greatly increase the apparent Ca(2+) sensitivity of the channel. We examined the structural features involved in this modulation with two types of experiments. In the first, the tail domain of the alpha subunit, which includes the RCK2 (regulator of K(+) conductance) domain and Ca(2+) bowl, was replaced with the tail domain of Slo3, a BK-related channel that lacks both a Ca(2+) bowl and high affinity Ca(2+) sensitivity. In the second, the Ca(2+) bowl was disrupted by mutations that greatly reduce the apparent Ca(2+) sensitivity. We found that the beta1 subunit increased the apparent Ca(2+) sensitivity of Slo1 channels, independently of whether the alpha subunits were expressed as separate cores (S0-S8) and tails (S9-S10) or full length, and this increase was still observed after the Ca(2+) bowl was mutated. In contrast, beta1 subunits no longer increased Ca(2+) sensitivity when Slo1 tails were replaced by Slo3 tails. The beta1 subunits were still functionally coupled to channels with Slo3 tails, as DHS-I and 17 beta-estradiol activated these channels in the presence of beta1 subunits, but not in their absence. These findings indicate that the increase in apparent Ca(2+) sensitivity induced by the beta1 subunit does not require either the Ca(2+) bowl or the linker between the RCK1 and RCK2 domains, and that Slo3 tails cannot substitute for Slo1 tails. The beta1 subunit also induced a decrease in voltage sensitivity that occurred with either Slo1 or Slo3 tails. In contrast, the beta1 subunit-induced increase in apparent Ca(2+) sensitivity required Slo1 tails. This suggests that the allosteric activation pathways for these two types of actions of the beta1 subunit may be different.