We have tracked the cell surface area of CHO cells by measuring the membrane capacitance, Cm. An increase in cytosolic [Ca2+], [Ca2+]i, increased the cell surface area by 20-30%. At micromolar [Ca2+]i the increase occurred in minutes, while at 20 microM or higher [Ca2+]i it occurred in seconds and was transient. GTPgammaS caused a 3% increase even at 0.1 microM [Ca2+]i. We conclude that CHO cells, previously thought capable only of constitutive exocytosis, can perform Ca2+-triggered exocytosis that is both massive and rapid. Ca2+-triggered exocytosis was also observed in 3T3 fibroblasts. Our findings add evidence to the view that Ca induces exocytosis in cells other than known secretory cells.