At least four different isoforms of phosphodiesterases (PDEs) are responsible for the hydrolysis of cAMP in cardiac cells. However, their distribution, localization and functional coupling to physiological effectors (such as ion channels, contractile proteins, etc.) vary significantly among various animal species and cardiac tissues. Because the activity of cardiac Ca2+ channels is strongly regulated by cAMP-dependent phosphorylation, Ca(2+)-channel current (ICa) measured in isolated cardiac myocytes may be used as a probe for studying cAMP metabolism. When the activity of adenylyl cyclase is bypassed by intracellular perfusion with submaximal concentrations of cAMP, effects of specific PDE inhibitors on ICa amplitude are mainly determined by their effects on PDE activity. This approach can be used to evaluate in vivo the functional coupling of various PDE isozymes to Ca2+ channels and their differential participation in the hormonal regulation of ICa and cardiac function. Combined with in vitro biochemical studies, such an experimental approach has permitted the discovery of hormonal inhibition of PDE activity in cardiac myocytes.