The properties of active or ATP-dependent calcium transport by islet-cell endoplasmic reticulum and plasma membrane-enriched subcellular fractions were directly compared. These studies indicate that the active calcium transport systems of the two membranes are fundamentally distinct. In contrast to calcium uptake by the endoplasmic reticulum-enriched fraction, calcium uptake by islet-cell plasma membrane-enriched vesicles exhibited a different pH optimum, was not sustained by oxalate, and showed an approximate 30-fold greater affinity for ionized calcium. A similar difference in affinity for calcium was exhibited by the Ca2+-stimulated ATPase activities which are associated with these islet-cell subcellular fractions. Consistent with the effects of calmodulin on calcium transport, calmodulin stimulated Ca2+-ATPase in the plasma membranes, but did not increase calcium-stimulated ATPase activity in the endoplasmic reticulum membranes. The physiological significance of the differences observed in calcium transport by the endoplasmic reticulum and plasma membrane fractions relative to the regulation of insulin secretion by the islets of Langerhans is discussed.