Mechanisms underlying the 5-HT2A receptor induction of intracellular Ca2+ mobilization and Ca2+ influx in type I astroglial cells in primary culture from newborn rat cerebral cortex were evaluated. The 5-HT-evoked Ca(2+)-transients, inhibited by the 5-HT2A antagonists ketanserin or 4-(4-fluorobenzoyl)-1-(4-phenylbutyl) piperidine oxalate, consisted of an initial peak caused by inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3)-mediated Ca2+ release from internal stores, and a second sustained part which was due to Ca2+ transport over the plasma membrane. The responses were pertussis toxin-insensitive, suppressed by the phospholipase C inhibitor neomycin and were inhibited by the Ca(2+)-ATPase inhibitor thapsigargin. Furthermore, the responses were inhibited by the IP3 receptor antagonist heparin. When the second sustained part of the 5-HT-evoked response was studied, it was concluded that Ca2+ influx was not a result of opening of voltage operated calcium channels of either L, N or T-type. Instead it appeared that Ca2+ entered the cells through specialized voltage independent Ca2+ channels which were dependent of the IP3 production and subsequent Ca2+ release from internal stores. From this, we conclude that 5-HT opens Ca2+ channels in astrocytes which closely resemble depletion-operated Ca2+ channels (DOCCs).