The effect of cytoplasmic Cl concentration ([Cl]i) on the activation state ([3H]benzmetanide binding rate) and phosphorylation state (32P incorporation) of the Na-K-Cl cotransporter was evaluated in secretory tubules isolated from the dogfish shark rectal gland. Reduction of [Cl]i at relatively constant cell volume (by removal of extracellular Cl or Na or by addition of bumetanide) increased cotransporter activation and phosphorylation. Raising extracellular K concentration ([K]o) from 4 to 80 mM, a maneuver that elevated [Cl]i above normal, reduced basal cotransport activity and rendered it entirely refractory to forskolin. High [K]o also blocked activation and phosphorylation in response to cell shrinkage, despite the fact that [Cl]i was already greatly elevated as a consequence of osmotic water loss. The phosphatase inhibitor calyculin A also promoted activation, but not in cells preexposed briefly to high [K]o. In summary, maneuvers than lower [Cl]i activate the cotransporter, whereas those that elevate [Cl]i (or prevent it from decreasing) block activation in response to secretory stimuli. Cell Cl appears to govern its own rate of entry via Na-K-Cl cotransport by impeding regulatory phosphorylation of the Na-K-Cl cotransport protein.