In membranes of rat olfactory bulb, muscarinic receptor agonists stimulate basal adenylyl cyclase activity . This response is inhibited by a number of muscarinic receptor antagonists with a rank order of potency suggesting the involvement of the M4 muscarinic receptor subtype. The stimulatory effect does not require Ca2+ and occurs independently of activation of phosphoinositide hydrolysis. Pretreatment with pertussis toxin completely prevents the muscarinic stimulation of adenylyl cyclase, indicating the participation of G proteins of the Gi/Go family. Immunological impairment of the G protein, Gs, also reduces the muscarinic response, whereas concomitant activation of Gs-coupled receptors by CRH or VIP results in a synergistic stimulation of adenylyl cyclase activity. Although these data suggest a role for Gs, a body of evidence indicates that the muscarinic receptors do not interact directly with this G protein. Moreover, the Ca2+/calmodulin (Ca2+/CaM)- and forskolin-stimulated enzyme activities are inhibited by muscarinic receptor activation in a pertussis toxin-sensitive manner and with a pharmacological profile similar to that observed for the stimulatory response. These data indicate that in rat olfactory bulb M4 muscarinic receptors exert a bimodal control on cyclic AMP formation through a sequence of events that may involve activation of Gi/Go proteins, synergistic interaction with Gs and differential modulation of Ca2+/CaM-independent and -dependent forms of adenylyl cyclase.