A calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CCaMK) is essential in the interpretation of calcium oscillations in plant root cells for the establishment of symbiotic relationships with rhizobia and mycorrhizal fungi. Some of its properties have been studied in detail, but its calcium ion binding properties and subsequent conformational change have not. A biophysical approach was taken with constructs comprising either the visinin-like domain of Medicago truncatula CCaMK, which contains EF-hand motifs, or this domain together with the autoinhibitory domain. The visinin-like domain binds three calcium ions, leading to a conformational change involving the exposure of hydrophobic surfaces and a change in tertiary but not net secondary or quaternary structure. The affinity for calcium ions of visinin-like domain EF-hands 1 and 2 (K(d) = 200 ± 50 nM) was appropriate for the interpretation of calcium oscillations (~125-850 nM), while that of EF-hand 3 (K(d) ≤ 20 nM) implied occupancy at basal calcium ion levels. Calcium dissociation rate constants were determined for the visinin-like domain of CCaMK, M. truncatula calmodulin 1, and the complex between these two proteins (the slowest of which was 0.123 ± 0.002 s(-1)), suggesting the corresponding calcium association rate constants were at or near the diffusion-limited rate. In addition, the dissociation of calmodulin from the protein complex was shown to be on the same time scale as the dissociation of calcium ions. These observations suggest that the formation and dissociation of the complex between calmodulin and CCaMK would substantially mirror calcium oscillations, which typically have a 90 s periodicity.