The calcium- and potassium sensitive fluorescent dyes fura-2 and K+-binding benzofuran isophtalate (PBFI) were used to detect changes in [Ca2+]i and [K+]i in type 1 astrocytes and neurons in mixed astroglial/neuronal rat cortical primary cultures after adrenoceptor stimulation. Noradrenalin (NA), phenylephrine (phe; alpha1-agonist), clonidine (clon; alpha2-agonist) and isoproterenol (iso; beta-agonist) were used. All agonists were able to increase [Ca2+]i and decrease [K+]i in the astrocytes with the exception of clon, which could not induce potassium responses. In the neurons, NA and phe evoked calcium transients while clon and iso did not. NA and clon were able to elicit reductions in [K+]i but no responses were seen after phe or iso stimulation. In neurons, the NA-evoked reductions in [K+]i always appeared immediately and gradually (after 30-50 s) returned to baseline even in the presence of the agonists. On the other hand, in the astrocytes, the NA-induced reductions in [K+]i appeared with some latency and always persisted at the lower level in the presence of the agonists. In addition, external tetraethylammonium (TEA) could severely reduce the NA-induced K+ responses in the astrocytes. The results indicate a clear heterogeneity regarding both adrenoceptor expression and response characteristics between astroglial cells and neurons.