Exposure to antigen (Ag) caused a biphasic 1,2-diacylglycerol (DG) production in [3H]myristic acid-labeled RBL-2H3 cells; the early, small transient phase and the second large sustained phase. The accumulation of phosphatidic acid (PA) or phosphatidylethanol (PEt) in the presence of ethanol was paralleled by the second-phase DG generation. Ag-induced formation of phosphocholine and choline in [3H]choline-labeled cells suggested the hydrolysis of phosphatidylcholine (PC) by phospholipases C and D. Treatment with phorbol myristate (PMA) or A23187 caused increases in [3H]DG and water-soluble [3H]choline metabolites. In protein kinase C (PKC) down-regulated cells, PEt formation was markedly reduced. In these cells DG production induced by Ag and A23187 was largely suppressed, thus indicating that PKC would play an important regulatory role for PC hydrolysis. However, because the A23187 treatment showed significant accumulation of water-soluble choline metabolites in PKC down-regulated cells, an increase in intracellular Ca2+ is another factor regulating PC hydrolysis. Taken together, these results may indicate that PC hydrolysis in response to Ag is dependent on PKC and Ca2+.