The action of interferential current (IFC), an amplitude-modulated 4000 kHz current used in therapeutic applications, upon intracellular calcium, adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP), and guanosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cGMP) was investigated. Human promyelocytes (HL-60) were differentiated to granulocytes by dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) treatment and exposed for 5 min at 25, 250, and 2500 microA/cm2 current density. No significant changes in cytosolic free calcium were detected as a function of modulation frequency of the IFC. However, intracellular cAMP reacted in a complex way to modulation frequency, resulting in stimulations and depressions within the range of frequencies studied (0-125 Hz). The "windows" of modulation frequency, where statistically significant increases or decreases in cAMP were noted, coincided with those published earlier for mouse fibroblasts. Cellular cGMP content was always lowered by IFC treatment. Furthermore, no significant influence of IFC current density upon the three second messengers was noted. These results, which also include data relating to treatment with sinusoidal 50 Hz current, contribute to a more detailed understanding of the primary biophysical mechanisms of signal transduction by time-varying electric fields.