Human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells, predominantly expressing type 1 inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP(3)) receptor (IP(3)R), were stably transfected with IP(3)R type 3 (IP(3)R3) cDNA. Immunocytochemistry experiments showed a homogeneous cytoplasmic distribution of type 3 IP(3)Rs in transfected and selected high expression cloned cells. Using confocal Ca(2+) imaging, carbachol (CCh)-induced Ca(2+) release signals were studied. Low CCh concentrations (< or = 750 nM) evoked baseline Ca(2+) oscillations. Transfected cells displayed a higher CCh responsiveness than control or cloned cells. Ca(2+) responses varied between fast, large Ca(2+) spikes and slow, small Ca(2+) humps, while in the clone only Ca(2+) humps were observed. Ca(2+) humps in the transfected cells were associated with a high expression level of IP(3)R3. At high CCh concentrations (10 microM) Ca(2+) transients in transfected and cloned cells were similar to those in control cells. In the clone exogenous IP(3)R3 lacked the C-terminal channel domain but IP(3)-binding capacity was preserved. Transfected cells mainly expressed intact type 3 IP(3)Rs but some protein degradation was also observed.We conclude that in transfected cells expression of functional type 3 IP(3)Rs causes an apparent higher affinity for IP(3). In the clone, the presence of degraded receptors leads to an efficient cellular IP(3) buffer and attenuated IP(3)-evoked Ca(2+) release.