1. Human alpha(2A)-adrenoceptors expressed in Chinese hamster lung (CHL) fibroblasts have been pharmacologically characterized by measuring intracellular calcium (Ca(2+)(i)) changes using the Ca(2+)-sensitive dye Fluo3-AM, in conjunction with a fluorometric imaging plate reader (FLIPR). 2. Several alpha-adrenoceptor agonists were examined including the alpha(2)-adrenoceptor agonists UK-14304, B-HT 920, dexmedetomidine and A-54741, the selective alpha(1)-adrenoceptor agonist phenylephrine and the non-selective adrenergic agonist noradrenaline. Of these only noradrenaline (mean pEC(50)=6.49) and A-54741 (6.90) evoked changes in Ca(2+)(i); A-54741 was a partial agonist relative to noradrenaline, achieving only 33% of the noradrenaline maximum. 3. Ca(2+)(i) changes induced by noradrenaline and A-54741 were antagonized by the alpha(2)-selective antagonist rauwolscine (10 nM) and by the alpha(1)-selective antagonists prazosin (0.1 nM) and doxazosin (1.0 nM). 4. Phenylephrine (100 microM) and UK-14304 (10 microM) alone were ineffective in causing Ca(2+)(i) increase. In the presence of a fixed concentration of UK-14304 (3.0 microM), phenylephrine induced concentration-dependent increases in Ca(2+)(i) (mean pEC(50)=5.33). In the presence of phenylephrine (30.0 microM) UK-14304 induced Ca(2+)(i) release (pEC(50)=6.92). The effects of phenylephrine were abolished by prazosin (1.0 nM) or rauwolscine (100 nM). 5. In saturation radioligand binding experiments using membranes of parental (non-transfected) CHL cells there was a small, specific binding of [(3)H]-prazosin (B(max)=24 fmol mg protein(-1); pK(D)=10. 24). 6. Collectively, these data suggest that alpha-adrenoceptor agonist-induced Ca(2+)(i) release in CHL fibroblasts transfected with the human alpha(2A)-adrenoceptor is dependent upon co-activation of the recombinant receptor and a native alpha(1)-adrenoceptor.