The unicellular eukaryote Tetrahymena pyriformis secretes significant amounts of cyclic AMP into its external medium. Cells transferred from growth medium into any of the following three different non-nutrient media: (a) 5 mM phosphate buffer containing 47 mM NaCl and 1 mM MgSO4, (b) 10 mM Tris, or (c) 1.3 mM Tris containing 1 mM citrate and 1 mM Ca(OH)2, released to the outside almost 60--80% of the total cyclic AMP produced during 2--5 h of incubation. Tris-citrate-Ca+2 medium was chosen for further experiments because of its minimal nonspecific interference in the cyclic AMP radioimmunoassay. The identity of the secreted material recognized as cyclic AMP by radioimmunoassay was confirmed by demonstrating its almost complete hydrolysis with commerical beef heart phosphodiesterase. Furthermore, the radioimmunoassay-active material in the concentrated medium co-chromatographed on paper with [3H]cyclic AMP, as judged by assay of the eluted material. After resuspending cells in Tris-citrate-Ca2+ medium, the extracellular concentration of cyclic AMP rose steadily over a 5-h period, reaching a level equvalent to approximately 35--50 pmol cyclic AMP/10(6) cells vs. an internal cyclic AMP quantity at 5 h of 8--10 pmol/10(6) cells. After 5 h, the level of extracellular cyclic AMP reached a plateau. There was no degradation or uptake of external cyclic AMP by the cells during this period.

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