Epinephrine (Epi) evoked a strong concentration-dependent (1-1000 nM) rise of GH release from perifused rat anterior pituitary cells cultured as aggregates in a serum-free defined culture medium. Dexamethasone (Dex), added to the culture medium, enhanced the secretory response to Epi. Aggregates of pituitary cells separated by gradient sedimentation at unit gravity widely differed in responsiveness to Epi, provided Dex was added to the culture medium. The poorest response was seen in aggregates composed of a population highly enriched in large somatotrophs from adult male rats even when cultured in the presence of 80 nM Dex. However, when these large somatotrophs were coaggregated with various somatotroph-poor cell populations, all of which were enriched in lactotrophs, the GH response to Epi increased by a factor of 3-4. The latter populations also enhanced GH secretion stimulated by vasoactive intestinal peptide (1-10 nM). In contrast, the GH response to rat GH-releasing factor (GRF, 0.01-0.1 nM) was not significantly potentiated in the coaggregates. The facilitation of the GH response to Epi was not seen when Dex was omitted from the culture medium. All of the lactotroph-enriched populations enhancing the response to Epi also contained corticotrophs, but none were highly enriched in the latter cell type. The magnitude of the Epi effect on GH release was not affected when the large somatotrophs were coaggregated with enriched populations of gonadotrophs, thyrotrophs, or folliculostellate cells. However, coaggregation with GH3 tumor cells provoked some stimulation. The present data suggest that GH release stimulated by Epi is modulated by facilitatory interactions of somatotrophs with other cells, the latter being most likely lactotrophs, although participation of corticotrophs in this interactions cannot be unequivocally excluded. Facilitatory interactions also modulate GH secretion in response to vasoactive intestinal peptide, but the GH response to GRF weakly, if at all.