The effect of forskolin on 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-induced inositol phosphate (IP) and Ca2+ mobilisation was investigated in canine cultured aorta smooth muscle cells (ASMCs). Pretreatment of ASMCs with forskolin attenuated 5-HT-induced IP accumulation and Ca2+ mobilisation in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. The half-maximal effects (pEC50) of forskolin to attenuate IP and Ca2+ responses to 5-HT occurred at concentrations of 6.28 and 6.64, respectively. Pretreatment of ASMCs with cholera toxin caused a similar inhibition on 5-HT-induced responses. Even after treatment with forskolin for 24 h, the 5-HT-induced responses were still inhibited. The inhibitory effect of forskolin resulted from both a depression of the maximal response and a shift to the right of the concentration-effect curves of 5-HT in these responses. The water-soluble forskolin analogue L-858051 [7-deacetyl-7beta-(gamma-N-methylpiperazino)-butyryl forskolin] significantly inhibited the 5-HT-stimulated IP accumulation. In contrast, the addition of 1,9-dideoxy forskolin, an inactive forskolin analogue, had little effect on IP response. Moreover, SQ-22536 [9-(tetrahydro-2-furanyl)-9-H-purin-6-amine], an inhibitor of adenylate cyclase, and both H-89 [N-(2-aminoethyl)-5-iosquinolinesulphonamide] and HA-1004 [N-(2-guanidinoethyl)-5-iosquinolinesulphonamide], inhibitors of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), attenuated the ability of forskolin to inhibit the 5-HT-stimulated accumulation of IP in ASMCs. These results indicate that activation of cAMP/PKA might inhibit the 5-HT-stimulated IP accumulation and consequently reduce Ca2+ mobilisation, or inhibit both responses independently.