The modulation of glucocorticoid receptor activity by cyclic nucleotides was studied in cultured human skin fibroblasts. The receptors appeared to be activated in the presence of dibutyryl-cAMP and inactivated by dibutyryl-cGMP. Significantly, the cGMP content of the fibroblasts increased during cell growth, with a concomitant decrease in the glucocorticoid receptor activity, while when the cells reached early confluency the decrease in cGMP content was accompanied by an increase in cAMP and increased activity of the glucocorticoid receptors. In addition, cortisol induced (2'-5')oligoadenylate synthetase in these cells and raised the cellular (2'-5')oligoadenylate concentrations. This resulted in a decrease in both DNA and protein synthesis activity in the cells, a response which correlated with the (2'-5')oligoadenylate concentration. The combination of cortisol and dibutyryl-cAMP had a synergetic stimulatory effect on the (2'-5')oligoadenylate concentration and a synergetic inhibitory effect on protein synthesis. In conclusion, it is demonstrated here that cyclic nucleotides can modulate glucocorticoid receptor activity in cultured human skin fibroblasts, and thus these compounds may indirectly affect cellular metabolism by regulating the cellular responses to glucocorticoids.