Calmodulin (CaM), as well as other Ca(2+) binding motifs (i.e., EF hands), have been demonstrated to be Ca(2+) sensors for several ion channel types, usually resulting in an inactivation in a negative feedback manner. This provides a novel target for the regulation of such channels. We have designed peptides that interact with EF hands of CaM in a specific and productive manner. Here we have examined whether these peptides block certain Ca(2+)-permeant channels and inhibit biological activity that is dependent on the influx of Ca(2+). We found that these peptides are able to enter the cell and directly, as well as indirectly (through CaM), block the activity of glutamate receptor channels in cultured neocortical neurons and a nonselective cation channel in Jurkat T cells that is activated by HIV-1 gp120. As a consequence, apoptosis mediated by an influx of Ca(2+) through these channels was also dose-dependently inhibited by these novel peptides. Thus, this new type of Ca(2+) channel blocker may have utility in controlling apoptosis due to HIV infection or neuronal loss due to ischemia.