The effects of epinephrine, vasopressin, and A23187 on glycogen synthase and phosphorylase were examined in isolated rat liver parenchymal cells from fed animals. In normal calcium-containing hepatocytes, epinephrine, vasopressin, and A23187 were more potent at inactivating glycogen synthase, previously activated with 30 mM glucose, than at activating phosphorylase. In calcium-depleted hepatocytes (cells washed and incubated with 1 mM EGTA), the effect of epinephrine on both enzyme activities was impaired, while the effects of vasopressin and A23187 were completely abolished. Insulin was more effective at inhibiting the effects of epinephrine in calcium-depleted cells, but it was without effect on vasopressin and A23187 actions. The ability of epinephrine, vasopressin, and A23187 to elicit calcium efflux from cells was not altered by the presence of 30 mM glucose. These findings are consistent with the idea that the α-adrenergic inactivation of liver glycogen synthase may be a result of the increased stimulation of a calcium-dependent protein kinase, possibly phosphorylase b kinase.