Studies were performed to investigate regulatory pathways of loop diuretic-sensitive Na+/K+/Cl- cotransport in cultured rat glomerular mesangial cells. Angiotensin II, alpha-thrombin, and epidermal growth factor (EGF) all stimulated Na+/K+/Cl- cotransport in a concentration-dependent manner. Pertussis toxin pretreatment reduced the effects of angiotensin II and alpha-thrombin but not that of EGF. Addition of the protein kinase C inhibitor staurosporine or down-regulation of protein kinase C by prolonged incubation with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate partially reduced the effects of angiotensin II and alpha-thrombin and completely blunted the phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-induced stimulation of Na+/K+/Cl- cotransport but did not affect EGF-induced stimulation. Exposure of cells to a calcium ionophore, A23187, resulted in a concentration-dependent stimulation of Na+/K+/Cl- cotransport, which was not significantly inhibited by down-regulation of protein kinase C but was completely inhibited by the calmodulin antagonist, N-(6-aminohexyl)-5-chloro-1-naphthalenesulfonamide (W-7). Stimulation of the cotransport by angiotensin II or alpha-thrombin was also partially inhibited by W-7. Inhibitory effects of protein kinase C down-regulation and W-7 were additive and, when combined, produced a complete inhibition of angiotensin II-induced stimulation of Na+/K+/Cl- cotransport. In saponin-permeabilized mesangial cells, phosphorylation of a synthetic decapeptide substrate for Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinase II, Pro-Leu-Ser-Arg-Thr-Leu-Ser-Val-Ser-Ser-NH3, was demonstrated. Maximal activation of the decapeptide substrate phosphorylation required the presence of Ca2+ and calmodulin and was dependent on Ca2+ concentration. These findings indicate that stimulation of Na+/K+/Cl- cotransport by angiotensin II and alpha-thrombin is mediated by protein kinase C and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinases whereas the action of EGF is mediated by other pathways.