The mechanism by which renal prostaglandins stimulate renin secretion in vivo is unknown. In this in vitro study we measured the effects of activation of the prostaglandin (PG) system on renin release from slices of rabbit renal cortex. The PG precursor arachidonic acid (C20:4), a natural PG endoperoxide (PGG2), two stable synthetic PG endoperoxide analogues (EPA I and II), PGE2, PGF2alpha, and two different PG synthesis inhibitors [indomethacin and 5,8,11,14-eicosatetraynoic acid (ETA)] were used to evaluate the possibility of a direct action of the cortical PG system on renin secretion. Renin release increased significantly with time after addition of C20:4, PGG2, EPA I, and EPA II to the incubation medium. Stimulation of renin release was se-related for C20:4 in concentrations of 0.6 to 4.5 X 10(-6) M, for EPA I in concentrations of 0.7 to 2.8 X 10(-6) M, and for EPA II in concentrations of 1.4 to 14.0 X 10(-6) M. Indomethacin (10(-4) M) and ETA (10(-4) M) significantly decreased basal renin release as well as the renin release stimulated by C20:4 and EPA I. PGE2(10(-12) to 10(-6) M) had no effect on renin release, whereas PGF2alpha (10(-12) to 10(-6) M) decreased renin release in a dose-dependent manner. These data raise the possibility of a direct action of the renal cortical PG system on renin secretion. The results further indicate that stimulation of renin release by C20:4 may depend more specifically on the action of PG endoperoxides than on the primary prostaglandins.