To evaluate interaction of vanilloid receptor type 1 (TRPV1) with endogenous Ca(2+) signalling mechanisms, TRPV1 was expressed in Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf 9) insect cells using recombinant baculovirus. Stimulation of TRPV1-expressing cells, but not control Sf 9 cells, with resiniferatoxin (RTX), capsaicin or anandamide, produced an increase in cytosolic free Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)), with EC(50) values of 166 pM, 24.5 nM and 3.89 microM respectively. In the absence of extracellular Ca(2+), both capsaicin and RTX caused an increase in [Ca(2+)](i) with EC(50) values of approx. 10 microM and 10 nM respectively. This TRPV1-induced release of Ca(2+) from intracellular stores was not blocked by U73122, suggesting that phospholipase C was not involved. Substantial overlap was found between the thapsigargin- and RTX-sensitive internal Ca(2+) pools, and confocal imaging showed that intracellular TRPV1 immunofluorescence co-localized with the endoplasmic reticulum targeting motif KDEL. To determine if TRPV1-induced mobilization of intracellular Ca(2+) activates endogenous store-operated Ca(2+) entry, the effect of 2-aminoethoxydiphenyl borate (2-APB) on Ba(2+) influx was examined. 2-APB blocked thapsigargin-induced Ba(2+) influx, but not RTX-induced Ba(2+) entry. In the combined presence of thapsigargin and a store-releasing concentration of RTX, the 2-APB-sensitive component was essentially identical with the thapsigargin-induced component. Similar results were obtained in HEK-293 cells stably expressing TRPV1. These results suggest that TRPV1 forms agonist-sensitive channels in the endoplasmic reticulum, which when activated, release Ca(2+) from internal stores, but fail to activate endogenous store-operated Ca(2+) entry. Selective activation of intracellular TRPV1, without concomitant involvement of plasmalemmal Ca(2+) influx mechanisms, could play an important role in Ca(2+) signalling within specific subcellular microdomains.