In mouse intestine, caveolae and caveolin-1 (Cav-1) are present in smooth muscle (responsible for executing contractions) and in interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC; responsible for pacing contractions). We found that a number of calcium handling/dependent molecules are associated with caveolae, including L-type Ca(2+) channels, Na(+)-Ca(2+) exchanger type 1 (NCX1), plasma membrane Ca(2+) pumps and neural nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), and that caveolae are close to the peripheral endo-sarcoplasmic reticulum (ER-SR). Also we found that this assemblage may account for recycling of calcium from caveolar domains to SR through L-type Ca (+) channels to sustain pacing and contractions. Here we test this hypothesis further comparing pacing and contractions under various conditions in longitudinal muscle of Cav-1 knockout mice (lacking caveolae) and in their genetic controls. We used a procedure in which pacing frequencies (indicative of functioning of ICC) and contraction amplitudes (indicative of functioning of smooth muscle) were studied in calcium-free media with 100 mM ethylene glycol tetra-acetic acid (EGTA). The absence of caveolae in ICC inhibited the ability of ICC to maintain frequencies of contraction in the calcium-free medium by reducing recycling of calcium from caveolar plasma membrane to SR when the calcium stores were initially full. This recycling to ICC involved primarily L-type Ca(2+) channels; i.e. pacing frequencies were enhanced by opening and inhibited by closing these channels. However, when these stores were depleted by block of the sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase (SERCA) pump or calcium release was activated by carbachol, the absence of Cav-1 or caveolae had little or no effect. The absence of caveolae had little impact on contraction amplitudes, indicative of recycling of calcium to SR in smooth muscle. However, the absence of caveolae slowed the rate of loss of calcium from SR under some conditions in both ICC and smooth muscle, which may reflect the loss of proximity to store operated Ca channels. We found evidence that these channels were associated with Cav-1. These changes were all consistent with the hypothesis that a reduction of the extracellular calcium associated with caveolae in ICC of the myenteric plexus, the state of L-type Ca(2+) channels or an increase in the distance between caveolae and SR affected calcium handling.