Previously, we have shown that adenosine inhibits release of acetylcholine (ACh) by acting at A1 presynaptic receptors in guinea pig submucosal synapses. In this study, intracellular recordings were made to investigate the actions of ATP and some analogs on the synaptic release of ACh. Superfusion of these substances decreased the amplitude and duration of electrically induced fast excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EP-SPs) in about 90% of the tested neurons. ATP (0.1-30 microM) effects were concentration dependent with an EC50 of 1.4 microM. ADP, AMP and ATP-gamma-S mimicked ATP inhibitory effects and were equally potent and efficacious. beta,gamma-Methylene-ATP seemed to act as a partial agonist, causing less than 50% of the inhibition obtained with ATP. 2-Methyl-thio-ATP was only active at the highest concentration tested whereas alpha,beta-methylene-ATP and UTP were inactive (0.3-30 microM). ATP-gamma-S did not alter depolarizations induced by exogenous application of ACh, indicating that ATP analogs inhibit EPSPs by acting at a presynaptic site. Although the EC50 values were similar for ATP and adenosine, the maximum responses (76 +/- 4.5% and 40 +/- 1.6%) were different. Adenosine deaminase (which inactivates adenosine) and alpha,beta-methylene-ADP (an ecto-5'-nucleotidase inhibitor) did not alter ATP-induced inhibition of these EPSPs. Inhibition of EPSPs by 30 microM adenosine (maximal concentration) and 1 microM ATP (submaximal concentration) were additive. Suramin or reactive blue 2 (30 microM), antagonists of ATP actions in several tissues, did not modify the effects of ATP on the fast EPSPs. 8-Cyclopentyltheophylline inhibited, in a competitive manner, these ATP inhibitory effects. In conclusion, ATP inhibits synaptic release of ACh by acting at receptors similar to those previously identified as P3-purinoceptors.