Calmodulin is a small Ca(2+)-binding protein proposed to act as the intracellular Ca2+ receptor that translates Ca2+ signals into cellular responses. We have constructed mutant yeast calmodulins in which the Ca(2+)-binding loops have been altered by site-directed mutagenesis. Each of the mutant proteins has a dramatically reduced affinity for Ca2+; one does not bind detectable levels of 45Ca2+ either during gel filtration or when bound to a solid support. Furthermore, none of the mutant proteins change conformation even in the presence of high Ca2+ concentrations. Surprisingly, yeast strains relying on any of the mutant calmodulins not only survive but grow well. In contrast, yeast strains deleted for the calmodulin gene are not viable. Thus, calmodulin is required for growth, but it can perform its essential function without the apparent ability to bind Ca2+.