Voltage-dependent calcium currents were studied in cultured adult mouse pancreatic B-cells using the whole-cell voltage-clamp technique. When calcium currents were elicited with 10-sec depolarizing command pulses, the time course of inactivation was well fit by the sum of two exponentials. The more rapidly-inactivating component had a time constant of 75 +/- 5 msec at 0 mV and displayed both calcium influx- and voltage-dependent inactivation, while the more slowly-inactivating component had a time constant of 2750 +/- 280 msec at 0 mV and inactivated primarily via voltage. The fast component was subject to greater steady-state inactivation at holding potentials between -100 and -40 mV and activated at a lower voltage threshold. This component was also significantly reduced by nimodipine (0.5 microM) when a holding potential of -100 mV was used, whereas the slow component was unaffected. In contrast, the slow component was greatly increased by replacing external calcium with barium, while the fast component was unchanged. Cadmium (1-10 microM) displayed a voltage-dependent block of calcium currents consistent with a greater effect on the high-threshold, more-slowly inactivating component. Taken together, the data suggest that cultured mouse B-cells, as with other insulin-secreting cells we have studied, possess at least two distinct calcium currents. The physiological significance of two calcium currents having distinct kinetic and steady-state inactivation characteristics for B-cell burst firing and insulin secretion is discussed.