1. 2-Chloroadenosine stimulated adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cyclic AMP) accumulation and potentiated (guinea-pig) or inhibited (mouse) the histamine H1-receptor-stimulated hydrolysis of inositol phospholipids in slices of guinea-pig and mouse cerebral cortex. 2. Two xanthine-based adenosine receptor antagonists were identified which were one order of magnitude more potent at the adenosine receptor mediating augmentation of the histamine-stimulated inositol phospholipid hydrolysis than at the receptor linked to cyclic AMP formation in guinea-pig cerebral cortical slices. 3. These compounds, 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine (DPCPX) and 7-benzyl-3-(2-methylpropyl)xanthine (BMPX) retained their selectivity under near-identical incubation conditions in both assays. 4. These compounds also showed similar affinities and selectivity for the adenosine receptor mediating inhibition of histamine-stimulated inositol phospholipid hydrolysis in mouse cerebral cortical slices. 5. Inclusion of agents which give rise to, or mimic, high levels of cyclic AMP (forskolin (1 microM), 8-bromo-cyclic AMP (1 mM) and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (1 microM] in the incubation medium failed to mimic the action of 2-chloroadenosine on inositol phospholipid turnover in cerebral cortical slices from either species. 6. These data suggest that the adenosine receptor modulating the hydrolysis of inositol phospholipid in mouse and guinea-pig cerebral cortical slices is different from the adenosine receptor linked to cyclic AMP formation, and, furthermore, that the modulation of inositol phospholipid metabolism in either species is not mediated via alterations in cyclic AMP levels.