The effects of Bay K 8644 and of nifedipine on histamine-induced mechanical and electrical responses were studied in the longitudinal smooth muscle of the ileum and in the taenia coli isolated from the guinea-pig. Nifedipine (10(-9)-10(-7) M) depressed the tonic and phasic components of histamine contraction. Phasic tension was less sensitive to nifedipine inhibition than was tonic tension (I50: 27 +/- 6 and 2.6 +/- 0.4 nM respectively). Bay K 8644 (10(-8)-10(-7) M) increased tension and rhythmic activity of intestinal smooth muscle and potentiated the histamine responses. The phasic tension evoked by histamine 10(-5) M and the phasic tension evoked by the KCl depolarizing solution showed the same sensitivity to nifedipine inhibition (I50: 28 +/- 5 nM) and were similarly potentiated by Bay K 8644. The tonic tension in response to the KCl-depolarizing solution was more sensitive to nifedipine inhibition than was the tonic tension in response to histamine and was not potentiated by Bay K 8644. These results indicate that different Ca entry pathways, dependent or not on modification of the membrane potential, are involved in the contractile response evoked by histamine in intestinal smooth muscle.