Cyclic GMP accumulation induced by noradrenaline in astrocyte-enriched primary cultures from rat cerebrum involves synthesis of NO, as evidenced by the competitive inhibition exerted by the NO synthase inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (IC50 = 3 μM). Furthermore, the noradrenaline effect was potently inhibited by haemoglobin (IC50 = 25 nM) and potentiated by superoxide dismutase, indicating that NO synthesis and cyclic GMP formation may occur in different subsets of astrocytes. Investigation of the receptors implicated by using selective adrenoceptor agonists and antagonists indicates that about 75% of the NO-dependent noradrenaline response is mediated by α1-adrenoceptors and the rest by β-adrenoceptors, with no evidence for potentiating effects between the two receptor types. This noradrenaline effect appears to require Ca2+ entry, since it is strongly dependent on extracellular Ca2+ but is not affected by conditions that will abolish intracellular Ca2+ mobilization (incubation with neomycin or pretreatment with carbachol). Inhibition by pretreatment with pertussis toxin is in agreement with involvement of the α(1A)-adrenoceptor subtype in this Ca2+-dependent effect. However, implication of an unknown al-adrenoceptor subtype cannot be disregarded, because a similar inhibition is exerted by the presumably selective α(1B) and α(1C)-adrenoceptor blocking agent chloroethylclonidine. Treatment of the cultures with the protein kinase C activator phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate inhibits to a great extent the noradrenaline-induced cyclic GMP formation.