Forskolin at 10 muM caused a 100-fold increase in the intracellular concentration of cyclic AMP and a 6-fold increase in glycerol release in the human adipocyte. These responses are comparable to those prompted by 10 muM isoproterenol. The effects of forskolin on cyclic AMP and lipolysis were dose-dependent. Alpha-2 adrenergic activation, achieved with 10 muM epinephrine and 30 muM propranolol, significantly inhibited forskolin-stimulated cyclic AMP accumulation and glycerol release, shifting the dose-response curves to the right. Forskolin at 10 muM caused a 4.5-fold increase in the adenylate cyclase activity of human adipocyte membranes. When either isoproterenol or epinephrine (0.1 mM) was combined with forskolin, the magnitude of response was substantially greater than the sum of responses achieved by each agent incubated alone.