Dephosphorylation by the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent phosphatase calcineurin has been suggested as an important mechanism of Ca2+-dependent inactivation of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. We have tested whether calcineurin plays a role in the inactivation process of two types of high-voltage-activated Ca2+ channels (L and N type) widely expressed in the central nervous system, using the immunosuppressive drug FK506 (tacrolimus), which inhibits calcineurin after binding to intracellular FK506 binding proteins. Inactivation of L- and N-type Ca2+ channels was studied in a rat pituitary tumor cell line (GH3) and chicken dorsal root ganglion neurons, respectively. With the use of antisera directed against the calcineurin subunit B and the 12,000 mol. wt binding protein, we show that both proteins are present in the cytoplasm of GH3 cells and chicken dorsal root ganglion neurons. Ionic currents through voltage-gated Ca2+ channels were investigated in the perforated-patch and whole-cell configurations of the patch-clamp technique. The inactivation of L- as well as N-type Ca2+ currents could be well fitted with a bi-exponential function. Inactivation was largely reduced when Ba2+ substituted for extracellular Ca2+ or when the Ca2+ chelator EGTA was present intracellularly, indicating that both types of Ca2+ currents exhibited Ca2+-dependent inactivation. Extracellular (perforated-patch configuration) or intracellular (whole-cell configuration) application of FK506 to inactivate calcineurin had no effect on the amplitude and time-course of Ca2+ channel current inactivation of either L- or N-type Ca2+ channels. In addition, we found that recovery from inactivation and rundown of N-type Ca2+ channel currents were not affected by FK506. Our results provide direct evidence that the calcium-dependent enzyme calcineurin is not involved in the inactivation process of the two Ca2+ channel types which are important for neuronal functioning, such as gene expression and transmitter release.