1. Fura2 was loaded by permeation and hydrolysis of the acetoxymethyl ester into smooth muscle cells of intact thin sheets of the longitudinal layer of the small intestine of the guinea-pig, to record Ca2+ transients during contraction. 2. Cytoplasmic Ca2+ ([Ca2+]i) was monitored by computing the ratio of the fluorescence signal excited at 340 and 380 nm wavelengths. The dye loading and the exposure to UV light required for the experiments had no significant effect on the contractile parameters observed. 3. Spontaneous, rhythmic increases in [Ca2+]i were often observed, preceding the onset of force. Removal of extracellular Ca2+ caused a very transient increase in [Ca2+]i accompanied by a phasic force transient; this was followed by a decline in [Ca2+]i and tension below control levels. Elevated Ca2+ from 1.2 to 15 mM also caused a fall in [Ca2+]i and a relaxation of basal tension. 4. Elevation of [K+]o increased [Ca2+]i. Graded concentrations of K+ caused graded changes in both fluorescence ratio and tension. 5. Carbachol evoked a transient increase in [Ca2+]i and contraction. Thereafter, in spite of the continued presence of the drug, both signals declined, presumably as the result of cholinergic desensitization. The initial phasic force response to carbachol was usually followed by an 'after-contraction', that was only occasionally accompanied by a similar (small) secondary rise in the fluorescence signal. 6. In depolarized smooth muscle, both in the presence and in the absence of extracellular Ca2+, carbachol induced a transient increase in [Ca2+]i, indicating that Ca2+ release from intracellular stores is a major mechanism of pharmacomechanical coupling. 7. In some preparations an applied stretch caused, after a few seconds, a rise in [Ca2+]i and force development.