Atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) is stored in atrial myocytes as a prohormone (ANF-(1-126] and is cosecretionally processed to the circulating ANF-related peptides, ANF-(1-98) and ANF-(99-126). Recently, we have shown that the cosecretional processing of ANF can be replicated in primary cultures of neonatal rat atrial myocytes maintained under serum-free conditions and that glucocorticoids are responsible for supporting this processing activity. Activators of protein kinase C (phorbol esters and alpha-adrenergic agonists) and of protein kinase A (cAMP analogs, forskolin, and beta-adrenergic agonists) were tested for their abilities to alter the rate of ANF secretion from the primary cultures. ANF secretion was stimulated approximately 4-fold after a 1-h incubation of the cultures with the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA); maximal release occurred at about 100 nM TPA. Reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography analysis of secreted material indicated that the cells efficiently cosecretionally processed ANF under both basal and TPA-stimulated conditions. However, incubating the cultures for more than 1 h with TPA resulted in a blunted secretory response to further TPA challenge and a 40-50% decrease in the quantity of ANF in the cells. The alpha-adrenergic receptor agonist phenylephrine was also capable of stimulating ANF secretion by about 4-fold at a half-maximal dose of about 1 microM. Phenylephrine-stimulated ANF secretion was inhibited by the alpha 1-adrenergic antagonist prazosin with half-maximal inhibition occurring at approximately 1 nM. Forskolin, 8-bromoadenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate, and N6-2(1)-O-dibutyryladenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate inhibited basal, TPA- and phenylephrine-stimulated ANF secretion. The beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol partially inhibited phenylephrine-stimulated ANF secretion with the maximal effect occurring at 1 nM. These results indicate that ANF secretion from the neonatal rat atrial cultures is enhanced by activators of protein kinase C, and decreased by activators of protein kinase A, and that these secretory effects may be mediated through the actions of alpha- and beta-adrenergic receptors, respectively.