In the ciliate Paramecium, a variety of well characterized processes are regulated by Ca2+, e.g. exocytosis, endocytosis and ciliary beat. Therefore, among protozoa, Paramecium is considered a model organism for Ca2+ signaling, although the molecular identity of the channels responsible for the Ca2+ signals remains largely unknown. We have cloned - for the first time in a protozoan - the full sequence of the gene encoding a putative inositol (1,4,5)-trisphosphate (Ins(1,4,5)P3) receptor from Paramecium tetraurelia cells showing molecular characteristics of higher eukaryotic cells. The homologously expressed Ins(1,4,5)P3-binding domain binds [3H]Ins(1,4,5)P3, whereas antibodies unexpectedly localize this protein to the osmoregulatory system. The level of Ins(1,4,5)P3-receptor expression was reduced, as shown on a transcriptional level and by immuno-staining, by decreasing the concentration of extracellular Ca2+ (Paramecium cells rapidly adjust their Ca2+ level to that in the outside medium). Fluorochromes reveal spontaneous fluctuations in cytosolic Ca2+ levels along the osmoregulatory system and these signals change upon activation of caged Ins(1,4,5)P3. Considering the ongoing expulsion of substantial amounts of Ca2+ by the osmoregulatory system, we propose here that Ins(1,4,5)P3 receptors serve a new function, i.e. a latent, graded reflux of Ca2+ to fine-tune [Ca2+] homeostasis.