Calmodulin was previously found to inhibit the Ca2+/phospholipid-dependent phosphorylation of an endogenous substrate, called the 87-kilodalton protein, in a crude extract prepared from rat brain synaptosomal cytosol. We investigated the mechanism of this inhibition, using Ca2+/phospholipid-dependent protein kinase and the 87-kilodalton protein, both of which had been purified to homogeneity from bovine brain. Rabbit brain calmodulin and some other Ca2+-binding proteins inhibited the phosphorylation of the 87-kilodalton protein by this kinase in the purified system. Calmodulin also inhibited the Ca2+/phospholipid-dependent phosphorylation of H1 histone, synapsin I, and the delta subunit of the acetylcholine receptor, with use of purified components. These results suggest that calmodulin may be a physiological regulator of Ca2+/phospholipid-dependent protein kinase.