De novo L-DOPA biosynthesis was studied in stably transfected AtT-20 cells expressing wild-type- or [Leu40]-recombinant tyrosine hydroxylase (rTH). Basal rates of DOPA accumulation were much higher by cells expressing rTH in which Leu was substituted for Ser4O (S40L-rTH) than by those expressing wild-type rTH (WT-rTH). Treatment of WT-rTH cells with forskolin produced an increase in DOPA accumulation and a concomitant increase in WT-rTH phospho-Ser40 content, whereas DOPA production by cells expressing S40L-rTH was entirely unaffected by forskolin. After forskolin treatment of 32Pi-prelabeled cells, WT-rTH was phosphorylated at Ser8, Ser19, Ser31, and Ser40, whereas 32P incorporation into S40L-rTH was restricted to Ser8, Ser19, and Ser31. Relatively prolonged treatment of AtT-20 cells expressing WT-rTH with either a depolarizing agent (elevated potassium) or a phosphatase inhibitor (okadaic acid) increased DOPA production and increased the phosphorylation state of Ser40; but, unlike forskolin, these treatments also increased DOPA production by cells expressing S40L-rTH. Thus, the present studies demonstrate that Ser40 phosphorylation mediates forskolin-induced increases in DOPA biosynthesis directly but that mechanisms other than Ser40 phosphorylation can mediate the increases in DOPA biosynthesis produced either by depolarization or by protein phosphatase inhibition.