Vasopressin has been shown previously to lower the glucagon-induced increase of cyclic AMP levels in isolated rat hepatocytes by way of an enhanced phosphodiesterase (EC 184.108.40.206) activity. Five phosphodiesterase inhibitors were tested for their ability to prevent vasopressin from lowering cyclic AMP levels in intact hepatocytes and for their inhibitory effect in vitro on soluble and particulate phosphodiesterase activities partially purified from hepatocytes. Three soluble activities have been separated by DEAE-cellulose chromatography: a phosphodiesterase hydrolyzing both cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP, a form stimulated by cyclic GMP and a cyclic AMP-specific activity. The absence of any statistically significant correlation between the in vivo (in intact cells) and the in vitro (on isolated phosphodiesterases) potencies of the inhibitors does not support a role for the cytosolic phosphodiesterases in mediating the vasopressin-induced decrease in cyclic AMP levels. No statistically significant correlation was observed between the inhibition of the vasopressin effect on cyclic AMP accumulation and the inhibition of phosphodiesterase activity either associated with the native plasma membranes or solubilized from these membranes with 0.4 M NaCl. In contrast, a statistically significant correlation was observed between the degree of inhibition of the vasopressin effect in the intact cells and the degree of inhibition of the intrinsic phosphodiesterase still associated with the plasma membranes after high-salt treatment. These data indicate that a phosphodiesterase activity integral to the plasma membrane is very likely involved in the negative control of cyclic AMP levels by vasopressin.