The effects of adenosine and its analogues on cAMP-responses and histamine release of rat peritoneal mast cells were investigated. The adenosine analogue 5'-N-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA') activates the adenylate cyclase of the mast cell membranes and elevates the cAMP-levels of the intact mast cells. Both effects are antagonized by methylxanthines, suggesting that they are mediated via an A2 adenosine receptor. Adenosine and its analogues enhance the release of histamine from these cells, when the release is stimulated either by the calcium ionophore A 23187 or by concanavalin A. However, this effect is not antagonized by theophylline or 8-phenyltheophylline. In contrast, it is antagonized by the adenosine uptake blockers S-(p-nitrobenzyl)-6-thioinosine (NBTI) and S-(p-nitrobenzyl)-6-thioguanosine (NBTG). It is concluded that adenosine has two different effects on mast cells: it activates adenylate cyclase via an A2 adenosine receptor, and it enhances histamine release via an action at an intracellular site.