1. The effect of suramin and pyridoxalphosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulphonic acid (PPADS) on the stimulation of phospholipase C in 1321N1 cells transfected with the human P2U-purinoceptor (h-P2U-1321N1 cells) or with the turkey P2Y-purinoceptor (t-P2Y-1321N1 cells) was investigated. 2-Methylthioadenosine triphosphate (2MeSATP) was used as the agonist at t-P2Y-1321N1 cells and uridine triphosphate (UTP) at h-P2U-1321N1 cells. 2. Suramin caused a parallel shift to the right of the concentration-response curves for 2MeSATP in the t-P2Y-1321N1 cells, yielding a Schild plot with a slope of 1.16 +/- 0.08 and a pA2 value of 5.77 +/- 0.11. 3. Suramin also caused a shift to the right of concentration-response curves for UTP in the h-P2U-1321N1 cells, and on Schild plots gave a slope different from unity (1.57 +/- 0.19) and an apparent pA2 value of 4.32 +/- 0.13. Suramin was therefore a less potent antagonist at the P2U-purinoceptor than the P2Y-purinoceptor. 4. In the presence of the ectonucleotidase inhibitor, ARL 67156 (6-N,N-diethyl-beta,gamma-dibromomethylene-D-ATP) there was no significant difference in the EC50 or shapes of curves with either cell type, and no difference in pA2 values for suramin. 5. PPADS caused an increase in the EC50 for 2MeSATP in the t-P2Y-1321N1 cells. The Schild plot had a slope different from unity (0.55 +/- 0.15) and an X-intercept corresponding to an apparent pA2 of 5.98 +/- 0.65. 6. PPADS up to 30 microM had no effect on the concentration-response curve for UTP with the h-P2U-1321N1 cells. 7. In conclusion, suramin and PPADS show clear differences in their action at the 2 receptor types, in each case being substantially more effective as an antagonist at the P2Y-purinoceptor than at the P2U-purinoceptor. Ectonucleotidase breakdown had little influence on the nature of the responses at the two receptor types, or in their differential sensitivity to suramin.