Blaberus hypertrehalosemic hormone (Bld-HTH)-dependent glycogen phosphorylase activation was investigated using in vitro fat bodies from the cockroach, Blaberus discoidalis. Resting levels of active phosphorylase were decreased by the presence of trehalose and glucose. Phosphorylase activation was dose-responsive to Bld-HTH and increased ca. 3-fold over a range of 0.02 to 2 nM Bld-HTH. Maximum phosphorylase activation required only 5-min exposure to Bld-HTH; reversion to the inactive state began within 15 min after Bld-HTH removal and was completed by 60 min. Octopamine also activated phosphorylase but required 10(3)-fold higher concentrations than did Bld-HTH. Concentrations of Bld-HTH and octopamine that increased active phosphorylase did not elevate fat body cAMP levels, although a high concentration of octopamine increased tissue cAMP levels. cAMP did not increase phosphorylase activity, but Ca2+ was important for both Bld-HTH- and octopamine-dependent phosphorylase activation.