Ca(2+)-ATPase belongs to the family of P-type ATPases and maintains low concentrations of intracellular Ca(2+). Its reaction cycle consists of four main intermediates that alternate ion binding in the transmembrane domain with phosphorylation of an aspartate residue in a cytoplasmic domain. Previous work characterized an ultrastable phosphoenzyme produced first by labeling with fluorescein isothiocyanate, then by allowing this labeled enzyme to establish a maximal Ca(2+) gradient, and finally by removing Ca(2+) from the solution. This phosphoenzyme is characterized by very low fluorescence and has specific enzymatic properties suggesting the existence of a high energy phosphoryl bond. To study the structural properties of this phosphoenzyme, we used cryoelectron microscopy of two-dimensional crystals formed in the presence of decavanadate and determined the structure at 8-A resolution. To our surprise we found that at this resolution the low fluorescence phosphoenzyme had a structure similar to that of the native enzyme crystallized under equivalent conditions. We went on to use glutaraldehyde cross-linking and proteolysis for independent structural assessment and concluded that, like the unphosphorylated native enzyme, Ca(2+) and vanadate exert a strong influence over the global structure of this low fluorescence phosphoenzyme. Based on a structural model with fluorescein isothiocyanate bound at the ATP site, we suggest that the stability as well as the low fluorescence of this phosphoenzyme is due to a fluorescein-mediated cross-link between two cytoplasmic domains that prevents hydrolysis of the aspartyl phosphate. Finally, we consider the alternative possibility that phosphate transfer to fluorescein itself could explain the properties of this low fluorescence species.