The effect of aluminium fluoride (AlF4-) has been studied on inositol phosphate accumulation, calcium mobilization, cyclic AMP production and [2-I-125]iodomelatonin binding in ovine pars tuberalis cells. These cells have high-affinity receptors for, and respond to, melatonin through inhibition of forskolin-stimulated adenylate cyclase. In the presence of 10 mM LiCl, AlF4- stimulated the net accumulation of inositol monophosphate and inositol bisphosphate. Consistent with these findings, AlF4- increased intracellular calcium; although this response was attenuated in calcium-depleted medium, indicating that the calcium response comprises both intracellular and extracellular components. Melatonin was ineffective on either basal or AlF4--stimulated turnover of inositol phosphates. In concordance with the inositol phosphate response, melatonin had no effect on either the AlF4--stimulated or the basal calcium levels. AlF4- blocked the increase in cyclic AMP stimulation by 1-mu-M forskolin, being as effective as melatonin, achieving approximately 90% inhibition. AlF4- also attenuated the binding of [2-I-125]iodomelatonin to ovine pars tuberalis membranes by 15%. At the concentration used, these results are consistent with the interpretation that AlF4- activates many G protein-mediated responses, and thus imply that the inhibitory pathway for cyclic AMP predominates over the stimulatory arm, whereas there can only be a stimulatory pathway linked to phosphoinositide metabolism in ovine pars tuberalis cells.