Little is known regarding factors that induce parasympathetic responsiveness during cardiac development. We demonstrated previously that in atrial cells cultured from chicks 14 days in ovo, transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) decreased parasympathetic inhibition of beat rate by the muscarinic agonist, carbamylcholine, by 5-fold and decreased expression of Galpha(i2). Here in atrial cells 5 days in ovo, TGFbeta increased carbamylcholine inhibition of beat rate 2.5-fold and increased expression of Galpha(i2). TGFbeta also stimulated Galpha(i2) mRNA expression and promoter activity at day 5 while inhibiting them at day 14 in ovo. Over the same time course expression of type I TGFbeta receptors, chick activin receptor-like kinase 2 and 5 increased with a 2.3-fold higher increase in activin receptor-like kinase 2. Constitutively active activin receptor-like kinase 2 inhibited Galpha(i2) promoter activity, whereas constitutively active activin receptor-like kinase 5 stimulated Galpha(i2) promoter activity independent of embryonic age. In 5-day atrial cells, TGFbeta stimulated the p3TP-lux reporter, which is downstream of activin receptor-like kinase 5 and had no effect on the activity of the pVent reporter, which is downstream of activin receptor-like kinase 2. In 14-day cells, TGFbeta stimulated both pVent and p3TP-lux. Thus TGFbeta exerts opposing effects on parasympathetic response and Galpha(i2) expression by activating different type I TGFbeta receptors at distinct stages during cardiac development.