Intercellular Ca(2+)-signaling, after mechanical stimulation of calf pulmonary artery endothelial cells (CPAE), was investigated with fluorescence video imaging. Mechanical stimulation evoked an intracellular Ca(2+)-response in the mechanically stimulated (MS) cell, proceeding to the neighboring (NB) cells as a Ca(2+)-wave. The intercellular propagation of the Ca(2+)-wave was unaffected by the gap junction blockers halothane or heptanol. Therefore the intercellular communication (IC) pathway of the Ca(2+)-wave in CPAE cells does not depend on gap junctional communication but is most likely mediated by release of an extracellular mediator. Continuous unilateral flow experiments confirmed the presence of a diffusible mediator: the Ca(2+)-rise in upstream NB cells is significantly lower than in control experiments. After desensitization of purinergic receptors by pretreatment of CPAE cells with ATP (100mM), UTP (100 microM), 2MeSATP (100microM) or ADPbS (100 microM), the propagation of the intercellular Ca(2+)-wave upon mechanical stimulation was significantly inhibited. Also suramin (200 and 400 microM), a non-specific purinergic receptor blocker, reduced the IC. Application of the nucleotidase apyrase VI (10U/ml), which has a high ATPase/ADPase ratio, enhanced Ca(2+)-signaling and IC. In contrast, apyrase VII (10U/ml), which has a high ADPase/ATPase ratio, significantly depressed the propagation of the intercellular Ca(2+)-wave upon mechanical stimulation. Our experiments therefore demonstrate that the IC, evoked by a mechanical stimulus of CPAE cells, is mediated via release of nucleotides in the extracellular space. The data indicate that the diffusible messenger, responsible for the propagation of a Ca(2+)-wave, is mainly ADP or a combination of ADP/ATP.