The function of the retinoblastoma protein (pRB) in controlling the G(1) to S transition is regulated by phosphorylation and dephosphorylation on serine and threonine residues. While the roles of cyclin-dependent kinases in phosphorylating and inactivating pRB have been characterized in detail, the roles of protein phosphatases in regulating the G(1)/S transition are not as well understood. We used cell-permeable inhibitors of protein phosphatases 1 and 2A to assess the contributions of these phosphatases in regulating cyclin-dependent kinase activity and pRB phosphorylation. Treating asynchronously growing Balb/c 3T3 cells with PP2A-selective concentrations of either okadaic acid or calyculin A caused a time- and dose-dependent decrease in pRB phosphorylation. Okadaic acid and calyculin A had no effect on pRB phosphatase activity even though PP2A was completely inhibited. The decrease in pRB phosphorylation correlated with inhibitor-induced suppression of G(1) cyclin-dependent kinases including CDK2, CDK4, and CDK6. The inhibitors also caused decreases in the levels of cyclin D2 and cyclin E, and induction of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p21(Cip1) and p27(Kip1). The decrease in cyclin-dependent kinase activities were not dependent on induction of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors since CDK inhibition still occurred in the presence of actinomycin D or cycloheximide. In contrast, selective inhibition of protein phosphatase 1 with tautomycin inhibited pRB phosphatase activity and maintained pRB in a highly phosphorylated state. The results show that protein phosphatase 1 and protein phosphatase 2A, or 2A-like phosphatases, play distinct roles in regulating pRB function. Protein phosphatase 1 is associated with the direct dephosphorylation of pRB while protein phosphatase 2A is involved in pathways regulating G(1) cyclin-dependent kinase activity.