The effect of calmodulin on the stimulation of cyclic AMP production by arginine vasopressin (AVP), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and forskolin was examined in cultured renal papillary collecting tubule cells of the rat. In the presence of the phosphodiesterase inhibitor 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine submaximal concentrations of AVP (1 nmol/l), PGE2 (20 nmol/l) and forskolin (240 nmol/l) significantly increased cellular cyclic AMP accumulation by 2·3-, 6·0- and 8·4-fold respectively. Two chemically dissimilar inhibitors of calmodulin, namely trifluoperazine and N-(6-aminohexyl)-5-chloro-1-naphthalenesulphonamide (W-7), attenuated the AVP-, PGE2- and forskolin-stimulated cellular production of cyclic AMP in a dose-related manner. Cellular production of cyclic AMP was inhibited by 50% (ID50) by doses ranging from 16 to 28 μmol trifluoperazine/1 and 35 to 44 μmol W-7/1. Basal accumulation of cellular cyclic AMP was also decreased by treatment with either trifluoperazine or W-7, but the effective dose was higher than that which inhibited cellular cyclic AMP production stimulated by AVP, PGE2 and forskolin. Since forskolin directly activates adenylate cyclase at a site of the catalytic unit and the cellular action of AVP to activate adenylate cyclase is mediated through receptor-guanine nucleotide regulatory-catalytic units, the present study indicates calmodulin regulation of basal, AVP-, PGE2-and forskolin-activated adenylate cyclase in the papillary collecting tubule cells. The inhibition of AVP- or PGE2-induced cellular cyclic AMP production by treatment with either Ca2+-free medium or verapamil, a blocker of cellular Ca2+ uptake, was demonstrated and suggests that an increase in cytosol Ca2+, which interacts with calmodulin to form an active complex is, at least in part, due to the increased cellular influx of Ca2+ from the extracellular space.