We have reported that dopamine (DA) inhibits Na-K-ATPase activity in the cortical collecting duct (CCD) by stimulating the DA1 receptor, and the present study was designed to evaluate the mechanism of this effect. Short-term exposure (15-30 min) of microdissected rat CCD to DA, a DA1 agonist (fenoldopam), vasopressin (AVP), forskolin, or dibutyryl cAMP (dBcAMP), which increase cAMP content by different mechanisms, strongly (approximately 60%) inhibited Na-K-ATPase activity. 2',5'-dideoxyadenosine, an inhibitor of adenylate cyclase, completely blocked Na-K-ATPase inhibition by DA or fenoldopam, and IP20, an inhibitor peptide of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA), abolished the Na:K pump effect of all the cAMP agonists listed above. To verify whether the mechanism of pump inhibition by agents that increase cell cAMP involves phospholipase A2 (PLA2), we used mepacrine, a PLA2 inhibitor, which also abolished Na-K-ATPase inhibition by DA or fenoldopam, as well as by AVP, forskolin, or dBcAMP. Arachidonic acid (10(-7) - 10(-4) M) inhibited Na-K-ATPase activity in dose-dependent fashion. Corticosterone, which induces lipomodulin, a PLA2 inhibitor protein inactivated by PKA, equally abolished the pump effects of DA, fenoldopam, forskolin, and dBcAMP, suggesting that lipomodulin might act between PKA and PLA2 in cAMP-dependent pump regulation. We conclude that dopamine inhibits Na-K-ATPase activity in the CCD through a DA1 receptor-mediated cAMP-PKA pathway that involves the stimulation of PLA2 and arachidonic acid release, possibly mediated by inactivation of lipomodulin. This pathway is shared by other agonists that increase cell cAMP and thus stimulate PKA activity.