Stimulation of the renin-angiotensin system is a major side effect of the fungoid immunosuppressant cyclosporine A (CyA). The aim of this study was to find out whether or not this effect of CyA results from a direct interaction with renal juxtaglomerular (JG) cells, which are the site of renal renin synthesis and release. Using primary cell cultures from rat renal cortex containing more than 80% JG cells, we found that CyA (0.01 to 10 micrograms/ml) stimulated renin secretion threefold. This stimulation was paralleled by a dose-dependent twofold increase of inactive renin within the cells, while the active intracellular renin remained the same. In order to identify a possible second messenger which could mediate the effects of CyA on JG cells, we examined the simultaneous effects of a single concentration of CyA (1 microgram/ml) on renin secretion, prostaglandin formation and intracellular cAMP concentration. However, prostaglandin formation and cAMP were not detectably altered by CyA in experiments where renin secretion was significantly enhanced. Our results indicate that cyclosporine A stimulates renin secretion and renin synthesis by a direct effect on renal juxtaglomerular cells. This action of CyA is not mediated by changes in cellular prostaglandin or intracellular cAMP.