To assess the physiological function of Ca(2+)-dependent protein phosphatase (PP2B) in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the phenotypes of PP2B-deficient mutants were investigated. Although PP2B was dispensable for growth under normal conditions, the mutations did, however, cause growth inhibition under certain stress circumstances. The growth of the mutants was inhibited by NaCl and LiCl, but not by KCl, CaCl2, MgCl2 or nonspecific osmotic stresses. Upon shift to high NaCl medium, intracellular Na+ levels of both wild type yeast and the mutants initially increased at a comparable rate. However, internal Na+ in wild type cells started to decline more rapidly than the mutant cells during cultivation in high NaCl medium, indicating that PP2B is important in maintaining a gradient across the membrane. The protection against salt stress was achieved, at least in part, by the stimulation of Na+ export. The maintenance of a high level of internal K+ in high NaCl medium was also PP2B-dependent. In the presence of the immunosuppressant FK506, the growth behaviour and intracellular Na+ and K+ of wild type cells in high NaCl medium became very similar to those of the PP2B-deficient mutant in a manner dependent on the presence of the FK506 binding protein.