We have investigated the effect of intracellular calcium levels for membrane potential during noradrenaline application in isolated small arteries. Rat mesenteric small arteries were mounted for isometric tension measurement. Smooth muscle membrane potentials were measured by conventional intracellular electrodes, and intracellular calcium concentration was measured using Fura-2 fluorescence. Under control conditions, noradrenaline caused contraction and depolarization from –55.5 to –29.3 mV. In intact arteries, depleting intracellular calcium stores with thapsigargin caused smooth muscle hyperpolarization and inhibited contraction to noradrenaline. In de-endothelialized vessels, thapsigargin still depleted calcium stores, but did not affect either the depolarization or contraction caused by noradrenaline. In noradrenaline-activated vessels, inhibition of calcium influx by amlodipine caused tension and calcium levels to fall to near-baseline levels, but membrane potential returned by only 55%. Treatment with a combination of thapsigargin, D-600 and BAPTA-AM inhibited the tension and calcium responses to noradrenaline, but the membrane potential response was reduced by only 34%. Acute reduction of extracellular chloride concentration caused similar, small depolarization at rest and during noradrenaline exposure. It is concluded that an elevation of intracellular calcium concentration is not essential for noradrenaline depolarization, although part of the depolarization is associated with the raised intracellular calcium level.