The elevation of cyclic adenosine 3':5'-monophosphate (cyclic AMP) in response to adenosine in C-1300 murine neuroblastoma (clone N2a) in surface culture is increased in magnitude in cultures pretreated overnight with theophylline or adenosine deaminase. This "potentiating" effect of theophylline takes time to develop and is blocked by cycloheximide. The cyclic AMP-elevating effect of adenosine decreases in magnitude as the cultures approach confluence. This reduced responsiveness is reversed by the overnight treatment with theophylline. It is hypothesized that adenosine is continually released by the cells to the growth medium and that this adenosine acts extracellularly to modulate the sensitivity of the cells to the cyclic AMP-elevating effect of adenosine.