1. The mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase signalling pathway can be activated by a variety of heterotrimeric Gi/Go protein-coupled and Gq/G11 protein-coupled receptors. The aims of the current study were: (i) to investigate whether the Gi/Go protein-coupled adenosine A1 receptor activates the MAP kinase pathway in transfected Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO-A1) and (ii) to determine whether adenosine A1 receptor activation would modulate the MAP kinase response elicited by the endogenous P2Y2 purinoceptor. 2. The selective adenosine A1 receptor agonist N6-cyclopentyladenosine (CPA) stimulated time and concentration-dependent increases in MAP kinase activity in CHO-A1 cells (EC50 7.1+/-0.4 nM). CPA-mediated increases in MAP kinase activity were blocked by PD 98059 (50 microM; 89+/-4% inhibition), an inhibitor of MAP kinase kinase 1 (MEKI) activation, and by pre-treating cells with pertussis toxin (to block Gi/Go-dependent pathways). 3. Adenosine A1 receptor-mediated activation of MAP kinase was abolished by pre-treatment with the protein tyrosine inhibitor, genistein (100 microM; 6+/-10% of control). In contrast, daidzein (100 microM), the inactive analogue of genistein had no significant effect (96+/-12 of control). MAP kinase responses to CPA (1 microM) were also sensitive to the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitors wortmannin (100 nM; 55+/-8% inhibition) and LY 294002 (30 microM; 40+/-5% inhibition) but not to the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor Ro 31-8220 (10 microM). 4. Activation of the endogenous P2Y2 purinoceptor with UTP also stimulated time and concentration-dependent increases in MAP kinase activity in CHO-A1 cells (EC50=1.6+/-0.3 microM). The MAP kinase response to UTP was partially blocked by pertussis toxin (67+/-3% inhibition) and by the PKC inhibitor Ro 31-8220 (10 microm; 45+/-5% inhibition), indicating the possible involvement of both Gi/Go protein and Gq protein-dependent pathways in the overall response to UTP. 5. CPA and UTP stimulated concentration-dependent increases in the phosphorylation state of the 42 kDa and 44 kDa forms of MAP kinase as demonstrated by Western blotting. 6. Co-activation of CHO-A1 cells with CPA (10 nM) and UTP (1 microM) produced synergistic increases in MAP kinase activity which were not blocked by the PKC inhibitor Ro 31-8220 (10 microM). 7. Adenosine A1 and P2Y2 purinoceptor activation increased the expression of luciferase in CHO cells transfected with a luciferase reporter gene containing the c-fos promoter. However, co-activating these two receptors produced only additive increases in luciferase expression. 8. In conclusion, our studies have shown that the transfected adenosine A1 receptor and the endogenous P2Y2 purinoceptor couple to the MAP kinase signalling pathway in CHO-A1 cells. Furthermore, co-stimulation of the adenosine A1 receptor and the P2Y2 purinoceptor produced synergistic increases in MAP kinase activity but not c-fos mediated luciferase expression.