Reasons for performing study: Ca2+ homeostasis in articular chondrocytes affects synthesis and degradation of the cartilage matrix, as well as other cellular functions, thereby contributing to joint integrity. Although it will be affected by mechanical loading, the sensitivity of intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in equine articular chondrocytes to many stimuli remains unknown. Hypothesis: An improved understanding of Ca2+ homeostasis in equine articular chondrocytes, and how it is altered during joint loading and pathology, will be important in understanding how joints respond to mechanical loads. Methods: [Ca 2+]i was determined using the fluorophore fura-2. We examined the effects of hypotonic shock, a perturbation experienced in vivo during mechanical loading cycles. We used inhibitors of Ca2+ transporters to ascertain the important factors in Ca2+ homeostasis. Results: Under isotonic conditions, [Ca2+]i was 148 ± 23 nmol/l, increasing by 216 ± 66 nmol/l in response to reduction in extracellular osmolality of 50%. Resting [Ca2+] i, and the increase following hypotonic shock, were decreased by Ca2+ removal; they were both elevated when extracellular [Ca 2+] ([Ca2+]o) was raised or following Na + removal. The hypotonicity-induced rise in [Ca2+] i was inhibited by exposure of cells to gadolinium (Gd3+; 10 μmol/l), an inhibitor of mechanosensitive channels. [Ca2+] i was also elevated following treatment of cells with thapsigargin (10 μmol/l), an inhibitor of the Ca2+ pump of intracellular stores. Conclusions: A model is presented which interprets these findings in relation to Ca2+ homeostasis in equine articular chondrocytes, including the presence of mechanosensitive channels allowing Ca2+ entry, a Na+/Ca2+ exchanger for removal of intracellular Ca2+ and intracellular stores sensitive to thapsigargin. Potential relevance: A more complete understanding of Ca2+ homeostasis in equine chondrocytes may allow development of future therapeutic regimes to ameliorate joint disease.