Phosphorylation of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) by cAMP-dependent protein kinase leads to chloride flux in epithelial cells. Is CFTR also required for the calcium-dependent activation of chloride channels? We used antisense oligodeoxynucleotides to CFTR to reduce the expression of CFTR in colonic and tracheal epithelial cells. The antisense oligomers were a pair of adjacent 18-mers complementary to nucleotides 1-18 and 19-36 of CFTR mRNA. Sense and misantisense oligomers served as controls. A 48-h antisense treatment reduced the expression of CFTR protein as assayed by immunoprecipitation and autoradiography to 26% of the level in sense-treated T84 cells. Whole-cell patch clamp revealed that a 48-h antisense treatment of T84 and 56FHTE-8o- fetal tracheal epithelial cells reduced the cAMP-activated chloride current to approximately 10% of that in sense-treated cells. The half-life of functional CFTR is less than 24 h in these cells. In contrast, the calcium-activated chloride current was not affected by antisense treatment. Hence, the cAMP and calcium pathways are separate. CFTR is required for the cAMP pathway but not for the calcium pathway.