We examined cytosolic concentration of Ca2+([Ca2+]i) in canine airway smooth muscle using fura 2 fluorimetry (global changes in [Ca2+]i), membrane currents (subsarcolemmal [Ca2+]i), and contractions (deep cytosolic [Ca2+]i). Acetylcholine (10−4 M) elicited fluorimetric, electrophysiological, and mechanical responses. Caffeine (5 mM), ryanodine (0.1–30 μM), and 4-chloro-3-ethylphenol (0.1–0.3 mM), all of which trigger Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release, evoked Ca2+ transients and membrane currents but not contractions. The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+-pump inhibitor cyclopiazonic acid (CPA; 10 μM) evoked Ca2+transients and contractions but not membrane currents. Caffeine occluded the response to CPA, whereas CPA occluded the response to acetylcholine. Finally, KCl contractions were augmented by CPA, ryanodine, or saturation of the SR and reduced when SR filling state was decreased before exposure to KCl. We conclude that 1) the SR forms a superficial buffer barrier dividing the cytosol into functionally distinct compartments in which [Ca2+]iis regulated independently; 2) Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release is preferentially directed toward the sarcolemma; and 3) there is no evidence for multiple, pharmacologically distinct Ca2+ pools.