In low ionic strength buffer (5 mM Tris.HCl), the binding of [3H] nitrendipine to dihydropyridine calcium antagonist binding sites of mouse forebrain membranes is increased by both Na+ and Ca2+. Radiation inactivation was used to determine the target size of [3H]nitrendipine binding sites in 5 mM Tris.HCl buffer, in the presence and absence of these cations. After irradiation, [3H] nitrendipine binding in buffer with or without Na+ was diminished, due to a loss of binding sites and also to an increase in Kd. After accounting for radiation effects on the dissociation constant, the target size for the nitrendipine binding site in buffer was 160-170 kDa and was 170-180 kDa in the presence of sodium. In the presence of calcium ions, [3H]nitrendipine binding showed no radiation effects on Kd and yielded a target size of 150-170 kDa. These findings suggest, as in the case of opioid receptors, the presence of high molecular weight membrane components that modulate cation-induced alterations in radioligand binding to dihydropyridine binding sites.