Using a modified Boyden chamber assay, we have examined the effect of cyclic nucleotides on bovine aortic endothelial cell migration in vitro. Dibutyrl cyclic 3',5'-adenosine monophosphate (5 mM) inhibited endothelial cell random migration by 67% and inhibited fibronectin-induced chemotaxis by 75%. Agents which significantly stimulated adenylate cyclase activity in endothelial cell membranes were also effective inhibitors of endothelial cell migration. Timolol blocked both the isoproterenol-induced stimulation of adenylate cyclase and the ability of isoproterenol to inhibit endothelial cell migration. Caffeine and isoproterenol together had a greater inhibitory effect on endothelial cell motility than either alone. These data suggest that cAMP may modulate vascular endothelial cell migration in an inhibitory fashion.