The calcium channel antagonist diltiazem was examined for its ability to translocate Ca2+ from an aqueous medium to the nonpolar lipid milieu. We monitored the spectral changes caused by the drug-mediated cation transport at 37 °C in unilamellar vesicles made of dimyristoyl phosphatidylcholine (DMPC) and containing the calcium-sensitive dye arsenazo III trapped inside. Vesicle leakage or membrane fusion caused by diltiazem was assessed by the use of vesicles containing fluorescent indicators. These effects were, however, found to be insignificant compared with ion transport. The transport was negligible at temperatures below the liquid crystalline to gel transition temperature of DMPC indicating a carrier mechanism of ion transport. A quantitative analysis of the transport kinetics indicated that a 1:2 Ca +-drug complex is formed inside the lipid. The calcium ionophoretic ability of diltiazem, combined with other related data, suggests a possible role for Ca2+ in the conformation of the drug in the lipid membrane milieu and in its interaction with the calcium channel.Key words: calcium channel antagonists, diltiazem, Ca2+ ionophore, liposomes, drug-Ca2+ complex.