Chlorotetracycline (CTC) has been used in many cells as a probe for membranous calcium. In polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN), the changes in CTC fluorescence upon stimulation are considered to monitor an early event in the activation process. Using quantitative video-enhanced microscopy, we report that in resting cells about 80% of the CTC signal emanates from the perinuclear region of the cell, indicating that internal structures are labeled with CTC. Approximately 20% of the total CTC fluorescence is taken up in a compartment sensitive to mitochondrial inhibitors, which is not present in neutrophils depleted of nucleus and granules or cytoplasts. Upon stimulation PMN loaded with CTC exhibit a rapid, biphasic decrease in fluorescence that is dose dependent. The second phase of the response is not seen in neutrophil cytoplasts. These results suggest that internal stores of CTC are responsive upon stimulation and could account for the later decrease in CTC fluorescence, whereas the early phase of CTC changes represents the plasma membrane response.