Astrocytic responses to activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors group I (mGluRs I) and alpha(1)-adrenoreceptors in cultured cells have been assessed using spectral analyzes and calcium imaging. Concentration-dependent changes were observed after stimulation with the mGluR I agonist (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG). These responses changed from a regular low frequency signal with sharp peaks at 1 microm to a pronounced stage of irregularity at 10 microm. After stimulation with 100 microm the signal was again homogenous in shape and regularity but occurred at a higher frequency. In contrast, the spectral properties after stimulation with the alpha(1)-adrenoreceptor agonist phenylephrine, exhibited considerable variation for all investigated concentrations. DHPG-induced increases in [Ca(2+)](i) were also associated with astroglial glutamate release, whereas no release was observed after noradrenergic stimulation. Both DHPG-mediated calcium signaling and glutamate release were inhibited by preincubation with 10 or 100 microm phenylephrine. Collectively, the present investigation provides new information about the spatial-temporal characteristics of astroglial intracellular calcium responses and demonstrates distinct differences between noradrenergic and glutamatergic receptors regarding intracellular calcium signaling and coupling to glutamate release. The noradrenergic modulation of DHPG-induced responses indicates that intracellular astroglial processes can be regulated in a bi-directional feedback loop between closely connected astrocytes and neurons in the central nervous system.