There is controversy over whether Ca(2+) binds to the BK(Ca) channel's intracellular domain or its integral-membrane domain and over whether or not mutations that reduce the channel's Ca(2+) sensitivity act at the point of Ca(2+) coordination. One region in the intracellular domain that has been implicated in Ca(2+) sensing is the "Ca(2+) bowl". This region contains many acidic residues, and large Ca(2+)-bowl mutations eliminate Ca(2+) sensing through what appears to be one type of high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding site. Here, through site-directed mutagenesis we have mapped the residues in the Ca(2+) bowl that are most important for Ca(2+) sensing. We find acidic residues, D898 and D900, to be essential, and we find them essential as well for Ca(2+) binding to a fusion protein that contains a portion of the BK(Ca) channel's intracellular domain. Thus, much of our data supports the conclusion that Ca(2+) binds to the BK(Ca) channel's intracellular domain, and they define the Ca(2+) bowl's essential Ca(2+)-sensing motif. Overall, however, we have found that the relationship between mutations that disrupt Ca(2+) sensing and those that disrupt Ca(2+) binding is not as strong as we had expected, a result that raises the possibility that, when examined by gel-overlay, the Ca(2+) bowl may be in a nonnative conformation.