In isolated rat hepatocytes adenosine and inosine showed a dose-dependent increase in the rate of glucose synthesis from lactate with a Ka of 7.5 x 10(-8) and 9 x 10(-8) M, respectively. Absence of this action was recorded with: IMP, xanthosine, adenine, hypoxanthine, and uric acid. A reciprocal inhibition of individual gluconeogenic stimulation was found in cells incubated with glucagon or epinephrine and adenosine, but not with inosine. 5'-(N-ethyl) carboxamido adenosine was more potent than adenosine, whereas N6-(L-2-phenylisopropyl)-adenosine antagonized the stimulation of gluconeogenesis by adenosine. Neither of the analogs used modified the stimulatory role of inosine on the studied pathway. Adenosine and inosine may be involved in the short term regulation of gluconeogenesis.