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The intracellular Ca concentration ([Ca2+]i) must be sufficently low in diastole so that the ventricle is relaxed and can refill with blood. Interference with this will impair relaxation. The factors responsible for regulation of diastolic [Ca2+]i, in particular the relative roles of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and surface membrane, are unclear. We investigated the effects on diastolic [Ca2+]i that result from the changes of Ca cycling known to occur in heart failure. Experiments were performed using Fluo-3 in voltage clamped rat ventricular myocytes. Increasing stimulation frequency increased diastolic [Ca2+]i. This increase of [Ca2+]i was larger when SR function was impaired either by making the ryanodine receptor leaky (with caffeine or ryanodine) or by decreasing sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca-ATPase activity with thapsigargin. The increase of diastolic [Ca2+]i produced by interfering with the SR was accompanied by a decrease of the amplitude of the systolic Ca transient, such that there was no change of time-averaged [Ca2+]i. Time-averaged [Ca2+]i was increased by β-adrenergic stimulation with isoprenaline and increased in a saturating manner with increased stimulation frequency; average [Ca2+]i was a linear function of Ca entry per unit time. Diastolic and time-averaged [Ca2+]i were decreased by decreasing the L-type Ca current (with 50 μM cadmium chloride). We conclude that diastolic [Ca2+]i is controlled by the balance between Ca entry and efflux during systole. Furthermore, manoeuvres that decrease the amplitude of the Ca transient (without decreasing Ca influx) will therefore increase diastolic [Ca2+]i. This identifies a novel mechanism by which changes of the amplitude of the systolic Ca transient control diastolic [Ca2+]i.