The inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (InsP3R) is the main calcium(Ca2+) release channel in most tissues. Three isoforms have been identified, but only types I and II InsP3R have been characterized. Here we examine the functional properties of the type III InsP3R because this receptor is restricted to the trigger zone from which Ca2+ waves originate and it has distinctive InsP3-binding properties. We find that type III InsP3R forms Ca2+ channels with single-channel currents that are similar to those of type I InsP3R; however, the open probability of type III InsP3R isoform increases monotonically with increased cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration, whereas the type I isoform has a bell-shaped dependence on cytoplasmic Ca2+. The properties of type III InsP3R provide positive feedback as Ca2+ is released; the lack of negative feedback allows complete Ca2+ release from intracellular stores. Thus, activation of type III InsP3R in cells that express only this isoform results in a single transient, but global, increase in the concentration of cytosolic Ca2+. The bell-shaped Ca2+-dependence curve of type I InsP3R is ideal for supporting Ca2+ oscillations, whereas the properties of type III InsP3R are better suited to signal initiation.