1. The effects of histamine receptor agonists and antagonists on phospholipid hydrolysis in rat-derived C6 glioma cells have been investigated. 2. Histamine H1 receptor-stimulation caused a concentration-dependent increase in the accumulation of total [3H]-inositol phosphates in cells prelabelled with [3H]-myo-inositol. The rank order of agonist potencies was histamine (EC50 = 24 microM) > N alpha-methylhistamine (EC50 = 31 microM) > 2-thiazolylethylamine (EC50 = 91 microM). 3. The response to 0.1 mM histamine was antagonized in a concentration-dependent manner by the H1-antagonists, mepyramine (apparent Kd = 1 nM) and (+)-chlorpheniramine (apparent Kd = 4 nM). In addition, (-)-chlorpheniramine was more than two orders of magnitude less potent than its (+)-stereoisomer. 4. Elevation of intracellular cyclic AMP accumulation with forskolin (10 microM, EC50 = 0.3 microM), isoprenaline (1 microM, EC50 = 4 nM) or rolipram (0.5 mM), significantly reduced the histamine-mediated (0.1 mM) inositol phosphate response by 37%, 43% and 26% respectively. In contrast, 1,9-dideoxyforskolin did not increase cyclic AMP accumulation and had no effect on the phosphoinositide response to histamine. 5. These data indicate the presence of functionally coupled, endogenous histamine H1 receptors in C6 glioma cells. Furthermore, the results also indicate that H1 receptor-mediated phospholipid hydrolysis is inhibited by the elevation of cyclic AMP levels in these cells.