Regulation of guanosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP) formation by calcium and calcium-binding proteins was studied at the levels of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and guanylyl cyclase (GC) in dispersed pancreatic acini isolated from guinea pig. In intact cells, in the cytosol, and on diethylaminoethyl fractions from cytosolic proteins, GC activity was negatively regulated by Ca2+. An increase in Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]) from 25 to 950 nM suppressed cGMP formation by 85%. On the other hand, NOS was stimulated by agents increasing cytosolic [Ca2+] and inhibited by intracellular Ca2+ chelators. Thus Ca2+ regulates cGMP production in opposite directions by activating NOS and inhibiting GC. Calmodulin antagonists W-7, trifluoperazine, and R-24571 inhibited NOS, suggesting that the enzyme is regulated by calmodulin as in other cell types. Calmodulin antagonists appeared to inhibit GC. In particular, 200 microM W-7 completely abolished the cGMP rise evoked by the nitric oxide donor, nitroprusside. The effect was not reversed by addition of excess calmodulin. The findings suggest that the negative regulation of GC by Ca2+ is due to factors other than calmodulin but affected by calmodulin antagonists.