The backbone dynamics of apo- and (Cd2+)1-calbindin D9k have been characterized by 15N nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Spin-lattice and spin-spin relaxation rate constants and steady-state [1H]-15N nuclear Overhauser effects were measured at a magnetic field strength of 11.74 T by two-dimensional, proton-detected heteronuclear NMR experiments using 15N-enriched samples. The relaxation parameters were analyzed using a model-free formalism that characterizes the dynamics of the N-H bond vectors in terms of generalized order parameters and effective correlation times. The data for the apo and (Cd2+)1 states were compared to those for the (Ca2+)2 state [Kördel, J., Skelton, N. J., Akke, M., Palmer, A. G., & Chazin, W. J. (1992) Biochemistry 31, 4856-4866] to ascertain the effects on ion ligation on the backbone dynamics of calbindin D9k. The two binding loops respond differently to ligation by metal ions: high-frequency (10(9)-10(12) s-1) fluctuations of the N-terminal ion-binding loop are not affected by ion binding, whereas residues G57, D58, G59, and E60 in the C-terminal ion-binding loop have significantly lower order parameters in the apo state than in the metal-bound states. The dynamical responses of the four helices to binding of ions are much smaller than that for the C-terminal binding loop, with the strongest effect on helix III, which is located between the linker loop and binding site II. Significant fluctuations on slower time scales also were detected in the unoccupied N-terminal ion-binding loop of the apo and (Cd2+)1 states; the apparent rates were greater for the (Cd2+)1 state. These results on the dynamical response to ion binding in calbindin D9k provide insights into the molecular details of the binding process and qualitative evidence for entropic contributions to the cooperative phenomenon of calcium binding for the pathway in which the ion binds first in the C-terminal site.