1. 2-Chloroadenosine (2CA) causes a maintained rise in adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cyclic AMP) content of guinea-pig cerebral cortical slices which is augmented by addition of histamine. We have investigated the temporal profile of the sensitivity of this response to calcium. 2. Rapid removal of extracellular calcium with EGTA (5 mM) at 2CA (30 microM)-induced steady state caused a slight increase in the cyclic AMP response to 2CA alone and completely abolished the augmentation produced by histamine (0.1 mM) added 20 min later. When EGTA was added only 2 min before histamine, the augmentation was reduced by 72%. 3. The calcium sensitivity of the histamine response was also indicated in studies in which EGTA was added 1 or 3 min after histamine at 2CA-induced steady state. Following addition of EGTA at either of these times, the augmentation was not maintained. 4. When calcium was rapidly removed with EGTA once a steady state level of cyclic AMP had been achieved with histamine, the augmentation response was maintained. This was despite the fact that EGTA had a similar effect on both extracellular free calcium and tissue calcium content when it was applied before or after histamine. 5. The 2CA response was augmented by phorbol esters (which mimic the actions of diacylglycerol) in a calcium-independent manner. 6. These results suggest that calcium is important for the initiation and early stages of the histamine-induced augmentation response. The apparent lack of calcium sensitivity of the response at later stages could mean that calcium is not involved in the maintenance of the response or that the intracellular machinery involved in the augmentation process becomes more sensitive to calcium as the response progresses, such that it becomes able to operate at a much lower level of intracellular calcium. A possible role for diacylglycerol in the maintenance of the response is discussed.