Since adenosine A1 receptors activate phospholipase C (PLC) in DDT1 MF-2 smooth muscle cells we have examined whether phospholipase D (PLD) and protein kinase C (PKC) activities are also increased. The formation of diacylglycerol was also measured. PKC activity was determined by measuring the phosphorylation of two peptide substrates after rapidly permeabilizing the cells. PLD activity was determined by measuring the formation of phosphatidylethanol. N6-cyclopentyladenosine, a selective adenosine A1 receptor agonist (100 nM) and bradykinin (1 microM) both stimulated the formation of diacylglycerol. The activation was biphasic with a rapid, transient increase (within 1 min) followed by a second increase. N6-cyclopentyladenosine increased the activity of PKC (EC50 5.6 nM) and PLD (EC50 18.7 nM). This was blocked by treatment of cells with pertussis toxin or the adenosine A1 receptor selective antagonist, 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine. Ki values (3 nM for PKC; 0.1 nM for PLD) were consistent with responses mediated via adenosine A1 receptors. Bradykinin (1 microM) also increased PKC and PLD activity, but these responses were insensitive to pertussis toxin treatment. The activation of PKC by N6-cyclopentyladenosine or bradykinin was transient, reaching a maximum at 1-2 min, and was preceded by increases in the formation of diacylglycerol. When adenosine A1 and bradykinin receptors were activated simultaneously, a synergistic activation of PKC was seen. There was no synergistic effect on PLD activity. In summary, the present study shows that activation of adenosine receptors of the A1 subtype increases PKC and PLD activity. Simultaneous activation of adenosine A1 and bradykinin receptors causes a synergistic increase in PKC.