Glucagon stimulates flux through the glycine cleavage system (GCS) in isolated rat hepatocytes (Jois, M., Hall, B., Fewer, K., and Brosnan, J. T. (1989) J. Biol. Chem. 264, 3347-3351. In the present study, flux through GCS was measured in isolated rat liver perfused with 100 nM glucagon, 1 microM epinephrine, 1 microM norepinephrine, 10 microM phenylephrine, or 100 nM vasopressin. These hormones increased flux through GCS in perfused rat liver by 100-200% above the basal rate. The possibility that the stimulation of flux by adrenergic agonists and vasopressin is mediated by increases in cytoplasmic Ca2+ which in turn could regulate mitochondrial glycine catabolism was examined by measuring flux through GCS in isolated mitochondria in the presence of 0.04-2.88 microM free Ca2+. Flux through GCS in isolated mitochondria was exquisitely sensitive to free Ca2+ in the medium; half-maximal stimulation occurred at about 0.4 microM free Ca2+ and maximal stimulation (7-fold) was reached when the free Ca2+ in the medium was 1 microM. The Vmax (nanomoles/mg protein/min) and Km (millimolar) values for the flux through GCS in intact mitochondria were 0.67 +/- 0.16 and 20.66 +/- 4.82 in the presence of 1 mM [ethylenebis(oxyethylenenitrilo)]tetraacetic acid and 3.28 +/- 0.76 and 10.98 +/- 1.91 in presence of 0.5 microM free Ca2+, respectively. The results show that the flux through GCS is sensitive to concentrations of calcium which would be achieved in the cytoplasm of hepatocytes stimulated by calcium-mobilizing hormones.