Purpose The functional characteristics of receptors that regulate lacrimal gland myoepithelial cells are still somewhat unclear. To date, mainly muscarinic receptors have been of interest; however, further knowledge is needed regarding their expression and functional roles. For this purpose, primary cultures of rat lacrimal gland myoepithelial cells were established and examined functionally. Methods Rat lacrimal glands were excised, minced, and further digested, yielding mixtures of cells that were seeded in culturing flasks. After 4-6 weeks, primary monocultures of myoepithelial cells were established, verified by immunocytochemistry. The cells were stained for all muscarinic receptor subtypes (M1–M5) and examined functionally regarding intracellular [Ca2+] responses upon activation of muscarinic receptors. For methodological verification, purinergic functional responses were also studied. Results Expression of muscarinic receptor subtypes M2-M5 was detected, whereas expression of muscarinic M1 receptors could not be shown. Activation of muscarinic receptors by the non-selective muscarinic agonist methacholine (3 × 10−11–10−3 M) did not cause a significant increase in intracellular [Ca2+]. However, activation of purinergic receptors by the non-selective purinergic agonist ATP (10−8–10−3 M) caused a concentration-dependent increase in intracellular [Ca2+] that could be blocked by the P2 antagonists PPADS and suramin. Conclusions Primary cultures of rat lacrimal gland myoepithelial cells were established that displayed a heterogeneous expression of muscarinic receptors. Purinergic functional responses demonstrated a viable cell population. Upon treatment with methacholine, no significant increase in intracellular [Ca2+] could be detected, indicating that cholinergic activation of myoepithelial cells occurs via other intracellular messengers or is dependent on interaction with other cell types.