We studied the activities of 3',5'-adenosine-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP)- synthesizing adenylate cyclase (AC) and cAMP-hydrolyzing cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (PDE) in phytohemagglutinin (PHA)- or anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28-stimulated human T cells, and examined their roles in interleukin-13 (IL-13) production. The AC inhibitor MDL 12,330A [cis-N-(2-phenylcyclopentyl)azacyclotridec-1-en-2-amine hydrochloride] completely blocked PHA- or anti-CD3/CD28-induced IL-13 production. The PDE 1 inhibitor 8-methoxymethyl-3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine or the PDE4 inhibitor rolipram partially inhibited IL-13 production, and the addition of both resulted in 100 or 85% inhibition in PHA- or anti-CD3/CD28-stimulated T cells, respectively. AC in T cells was transiently activated 5 min after stimuli, followed by the transient activation of PDE4 at 30 min. PDE1 activity, undetectable in resting T cells, was detected 3 hr after stimuli, and then increased gradually. Although PDE1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-independent PDE activity was low (< or = 15% of total), it began to increase 3 hr after anti-CD3/CD28; the increase was blocked by PDE7 antisense oligonucleotide, and such an increase was not induced by PHA. PHA or anti-CD3/CD28 induced PDE1B mRNA expression, undetectable in resting T cells. PDE4 mRNA level in T cells was not altered by either stimulus. PDE7 mRNA expression was detected in resting T cells, and was enhanced by anti-CD3/CD28, but not by PHA. The cAMP level of T cells increased 5 min after stimuli, returned to the basal level at 2 hr, and then continued to decrease. These results suggest that PHA or anti-CD3/CD28 initially (< or = 5 min) increases cAMP in T cells via AC, then reverses the increase via PDE4 (< or = 2 hr), and in the later phase (> 2 hr) further decreases cAMP via PDE1. Both the time-dependent increase and decrease of cAMP may be required for IL-13 production.