Serotonin (5-HT) stimulates aldosterone secretion from the rat adrenal gland through 5-HT(7) receptors. The aim of the present study was to investigate the transduction mechanisms associated with activation of 5-HT(7) receptors in rat glomerulosa cells. The stimulatory effect of 5-HT on aldosterone secretion and cAMP formation was significantly reduced by the 5-HT(7) receptor antagonist LY 215840. Pretreatment of cells with the adenylyl cyclase inhibitor SQ 22536 or the PKA inhibitor H-89 markedly attenuated the effect of 5-HT on aldosterone secretion. Conversely, type 2 and 4 phosphodiesterase inhibitors potentiated the 5-HT-induced stimulation of aldosterone secretion. Administration of 5-HT in the vicinity of cultured glomerulosa cells induced a slowly developing and robust increase in cytosolic calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)). The effect of 5-HT on [Ca(2+)](i) was suppressed by mibefradil, a T-type calcium channel blocker. Patch-clamp studies confirmed that 5-HT activated a T-type calcium current. Mibefradil also induced a dose-dependent inhibition of 5-HT-induced aldosterone secretion. The sequence of events associated with activation of 5-HT(7) receptors was investigated. The PKA inhibitor H-89 markedly attenuated both the [Ca(2+)](i) response and the activation of T-type calcium current induced by 5-HT. In contrast, reduction of the calcium concentration in the incubation medium did not affect 5-HT- induced cAMP formation. Preincubation of glomerulosa cells with cholera toxin abolished the stimulatory effect of 5-HT on aldosterone secretion, but pertussis toxin had no effect. Taken together, these data demonstrate that, in rat glomerulosa cells, activation of native 5-HT(7) receptors stimulates cAMP formation through a G(salpha) protein, which in turn provokes calcium influx through T-type calcium channels. Both the adenylyl cyclase/PKA pathway and the calcium influx are involved in 5-HT-induced aldosterone secretion.