The involvement of adenosine 3':5'-monophosphate (cAMP) in the regulation of the cell cycle was studied by determining intracellular fluctuations in cAMP levels in synchronized HeLa cells and by testing the effects of experimentally altered levels on cell cycle traverse. Cyclic AMP levels were lowest during mitosis and were highest during late G-1 or early S phase. These findings were supported by results obtained when cells were accumulated at these points with Colcemid or high levels of thymidine. Additional fluctuations in cAMP levels were observed during S phase. Two specific effects of cAMP on cell cycle traverse were found. Elevation of cAMP levels in S phase or G-2 caused arrest of cells in G-2 for as long as 10 h and lengthened M. However, once cells reached metaphase, elevation of cAMP accelerated the completion of mitosis. Stimulation of mitosis was also observed after addition of CaCl2. The specificity of the effects of cAMP was verified by demonstrating that: (a) intracellular cAMP was increased after exposure to methylisobutylxanthine (MIX) before any observed effects on cycle traverse; (b) submaximal concentrations of MIX potentiated the effects of isoproterenol; and (c) effects of MIX and isoproterenol were mimicked by 8-Br-cAMP. MIX at high concentrations inhibited G-1 traverse, but this effect did not appear to be mediated by cAMP. Isoproterenol slightly stimulated G-1 traverse and partially prevented the MIX-induced delay. Moreover, low concentrations of 8-Br-cAMP (0.10-100 muM) stimulated G-1 traverse, whereas high concentrations (1 mM) inhibited. Both of these effects were also observed with the control, Br-5'-AMP, at 10-fold lower concentrations.

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