Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) spends a significant part of the viral life cycle as a latent provirus integrated into the host genome. Activation of latent HIV-1 requires mitogenic stimulation of the cell, which increases basal viral transcription, and the HIV-1 tat protein. As tat itself dramatically increases HIV-1 gene expression, it too is presumably regulated in the latent state, and may also be activated by mitogenic stimulation. We show here that depletion of protein kinase C (PKC), which is essential to the stimulation of T cells by several mitogens, dramatically reduces HIV-1 transactivation without affecting synthesis of tat protein. Transactivation in PKC-depleted cells can be restored by transfection with a PKC expression vector. The requirement for PKC in trans-activation does not involve the PMA-responsive enhancer elements responsible for the effect of mitogens on basal transcription. Our results indicate that PKC regulates the process of HIV-1 transactivation, suggesting a key role for the mitogenic induction of trans-activation in the transition of HIV from latency to productive growth.