Abstract Diacylglycerol generated from inositolphospholipid hydrolysis and tumor-promoting phorbol esters stimulate protein kinase C. The synthetic diacylglycerol 1-oleoyl-2-acetyl-rac-glycerol and the phorbol ester 12- O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) have been used in pure rat peritoneal mast cells. Both caused histamine release associated with exocytosis. The release by the stimulation of protein kinase C alone in the absence of secretagogues was slow although up to 50% of the histamine content was released by TPA in 120 min. Remarkable potentiation of histamine release was observed when the mast cells were preincubated with TPA before exposure to the calcium ionophore A23187. The potentiation of histamine release corresponded with an intensification of exocytosis. The potentiation is consistent with a participation of protein kinase C in the secretory process. An inhibitory effect due to protein kinase C activity was also demonstrated using TPA and mast cells from sensitized rats. When sensitized mast cells preincubated with 50 n M TPA for 5 min were exposed to the antigen, the histamine release was substantially reduced compared to the sum of the release by the antigen and TPA or by the antigen alone. There was a corresponding decrease in exocytosis. The inhibition of exocytosis and histamine release seems to reflect a regulatory function of protein kinase C for the termination of the response, as demonstrated in other types of cells apparently acting through an inhibition of inositolphospholipid hydrolysis.