The cellular mechanism by which the angiotensin II (AII) agonist, Sar1-AII, inhibits production and release of angiotensinogen in human hepatoma HepG2 cells was examined. Pretreatment of HepG2 cells with pertussis toxin attenuated the ability of Sar1-AII to block angiotensinogen production. This effect could be correlated with the in situ ADP-ribosylation of a protein(s) of apparent molecular weight 39,000-41,000 on SDS-PAGE, and attenuation of the ability of Sar1-AII to inhibit cAMP accumulation. The role of cAMP in angiotensinogen production was examined. A transient increase in cAMP accumulation above basal could be evoked by forskolin (8-fold) or by glucagon (5-fold) using insulin-deficient media. Although neither forskolin nor glucagon had a significant effect on angiotensinogen production agents producing a sustained increase in intracellular cAMP (8-bromo-cAMP, dibutyryl-cAMP, cholera toxin) were able to increase angiotensinogen production. Although these data indicate that intracellular cAMP is a regulatory factor in angiotensinogen production other evidence suggests that modulation of intracellular cAMP is not entirely responsible for the effects of Sar1-AII.