The stimulation of adrenoreceptors by epinephrine leads to an alteration in the Ca2+ homeostasis of rat submandibular cells. The relative contributions of alpha- and beta-adrenoreceptors were assessed with specific adrenergic agents. Stimulation of alpha 1-adrenoreceptors resulted in enhanced unidirectional 45Ca2+ fluxes, while such effects following beta-adrenoreceptor stimulation, though suggestive, were equivocal. When the cytosolic Ca2+ level was followed in cells pre-loaded with the Ca2+-sensitive fluorescent indicator Quin 2, clear results were observed. Both alpha 1- and beta-adrenoreceptor stimulation were capable of mobilizing intracellular and extracellular Ca2+ pools, as assessed by differential responses of cells incubated in media (+/-)-ethylene-glycol-bis-(beta-aminoethyl ether)-N,N'-tetraacetic acid. However, Ca2+ mobilization following alpha 1-adrenoreceptor stimulation was more rapid (initial rate approximately 4-5 X) and to a greater extent (approximately 2 X) than seen with beta-adrenoreceptor stimulation.