The pineal gland has proven to be an excellent model for the study of adrenergic control systems. Noradrenaline, released from sympathetic nerve terminals in the pineal gland, regulates a large nocturnal increase in melatonin synthesis by stimulating the activity of arylalkylamine N-acetyltransferase (NAT, EC 126.96.36.199) 30-70-fold. An essential step in both the induction and maintenance of high NAT activity is an increase in intracellular cyclic AMP. Noradrenaline acts via beta-adrenoceptors to increase pineal cyclic AMP by activating adenylate cyclase, and the activation of pineal alpha 1-adrenoceptors potentiates beta-adrenergic stimulation not only of NAT but of both cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP. Here we describe investigations designed to test whether alpha 1-adrenergic potentiation of beta-adrenergic stimulation of pineal cyclic AMP involves protein kinase C. Our results suggest that kinase activation is involved and the data provide the first demonstration of a synergistic interaction between Ca2+-phospholipid-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase C) and neurotransmitter-dependent stimulation of cyclic AMP.