A selective action of ethanol on major signal transduction proteins, such as adenylyl cyclase, has been considered to be important for certain actions of ethanol, and alcoholics have been demonstrated to differ from controls in measures of platelet adenylyl cyclase activity. Recent advances in identification and characterization of isoforms of adenylyl cyclase have demonstrated that there exists at least eight different forms of this enzyme. To examine whether the effect of ethanol on generation of cAMP is modified by the presence of particular isoforms of adenylyl cyclase within a cell, we transiently expressed each of six adenylyl cyclases in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) cells and measured cAMP accumulation in whole cells in the presence and absence of ethanol. The treatment of cells expressing the various adenylyl cyclases with ethanol alone did not enhance cAMP generation. In the presence of prostaglandin E1, cAMP generation by type I and type III adenylyl cyclases was insensitive to ethanol. cAMP accumulation generated by the other adenylyl cyclases was, however, increased by incubation of cells with ethanol in the presence of stimulatory agonists (e.g., prostaglandin E1). Stimulation by ethanol of cAMP generation by type VII adenylyl cyclase was 2- to 3-fold greater than that seen with the other tested adenylyl cyclases. The noted stimulation of cAMP generation by ethanol was dose-dependent and required concurrent activation of adenylyl cyclase through the stimulatory G protein. The effects of ethanol were reversible and mimicked by butanol but not by chloroform.