Calcium transport from the eggshell to the developing chick embryo is carried out by the ectoderm cells of the chick chorioallantoic membrane. Primary cells isolated from chick chorioallantoic membrane ectoderm were used to analyze the subcellular distribution of 45Ca2+ accumulated from the extracellular medium. We present evidence suggesting that calcium may be sequestered into endosome-like vesicles during the initial phase of uptake. A combination of techniques were utilized to monitor calcium fluxes and calcium compartmentalization in the cultured chorioallantoic membrane cells: (1) fura-2 fluorescence was used to indicate cytosolic free calcium concentrations, (2) 45Ca2+ tracer was used to follow calcium accumulation in all cellular compartments, and (3) digitonin was used to differentially permeabilize subcellular membranes in order to localize 45Ca2+ by following tracer release profiles. Differences between cytosolic calcium flux and whole cell calcium accumulation suggested that the pathway of calcium uptake from the medium involves sequestration into an internal compartment separate from the cytosol. Kinetic analysis of the digitonin-mediated release of specific subcellular markers (lactate dehydrogenase, NAD-dependent isocitrate dehydrogenase, [3H]inulin, and [3H]-2-deoxyglucose) and preloaded 45Ca2+ indicated that calcium was localized in a compartment similar to endosomal vesicles. Our results are consistent with a transcytotic mechanism for chorioallantoic membrane calcium transport.